Today in History: Al Capone heads to prison

'This Day in History': 10/17/1931 - Al Capone Sentenced
'This Day in History': 10/17/1931 - Al Capone Sentenced

Love him or hate him, Al Capone is a legend. The infamous mobster remains a household name more than half a century after his death.

On this day 84 years ago, the gangster was sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax evasion. His prison term marked the beginning of the end for Capone and his crime syndicate, which reigned supreme over the 1920s and 1930s.

Born in 1899 Brooklyn, New York to an immigrant family, Alphonse Gabriel Capone was destined for a life of trouble-making. Capone joined his first gang after being expelled from school at age 14. There, he earned his nickname "Scarface" after a fight left him with a sliced cheek.

After packing up and heading to Chicago in 1920, Capone found himself in the company of crime boss Johnny Torrio. Capone soon was helping Torrio run his crime empire, the Chicago Outfit. Illegal enterprises run by the gang included alcohol smuggling, gambling and prostitution. The Prohibition, which lasted from 1920 to 1933, outlawed alcohol and provided a lucrative business opportunity for gangsters.

Upon Torrio's retirement in 1925, the reigns to the Chicago Outfit were passed onto Capone, who had become known for his cunning mind and brutal behavior. Capone profited heavily from bootlegging, raking in millions from his illegal activities.

Capone and his team were always on a mission to be at the top of the crime game and were constantly wiping out the competition, in any way possible. Capone solidified his spot as the head honcho of all gangs in the infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre in 1929. There, Capone's mob machine-gunned seven members of a rival gang by posing as police. The FBI called the event "the culminating violence of the Chicago gang era."

See photos of the legendary mobster:

By 1930, Capone was gracing the top of the FBI's Most Wanted list. However, Capone had always evaded jail time by a series of manipulative tactics that included intimidating witnesses and bribing city officials. That was until 1931 when federal agent Elliot Ness finally nailed the mobster.

Ness and his team of officers known as "The Untouchables" were one of many Capone's enemies. The government agents had been breaking up Capone's bootlegging businesses for a while, but were never able to make the charges stick. However, Ness began to think outside the box and was able to nail the notorious mobster with tax-evasion charges in 1931.

Capone began his 11 year prison sentence at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta, but was transferred to maximum security Alcatraz prison after accusations swirled that he was manipulating the system and getting preferential treatment. Capone was released in 1939, due to good behavior, having spent the past year suffering from syphilis in a hospital.

Al Capone lived out the rest of his life with failing health problems that also included gonorrhea before dying in 1947 at his Palm Island, Florida home. He was 48 years old.

See photos of Capone's crazy "gangster" mansion:

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