Al "Scarface" Capone, notorious Chicago gangster and probable architect of the 1929 St. Valentine's Day Massacre, had his fingers in numerous illicit "pies": illegal gambling, prostitution, and, most famously, bootlegging. In his book Blowing Smoke, author Michael J. Reznicek writes that Capone himself estimated that he spent about $30 million (USD) per year -- half of his profits -- on bribes to public officials to escape arrest and prosecution. That's nearly $398 million (USD) in 2015 dollars.
Capone was finally arrested for tax evasion, and that was the only charge that ever stuck. Because of his enormous power and influence in Chicago, witnesses were reluctant to testify against him, and he dealt in cash, never leaving a paper trail that could be traced back to him. In fact, when the St. Valentine's Day Massacre was going on, he was at his winter home in Florida. He even had a doctor write a note saying he was bedridden, and therefore he couldn't have had anything to do with the murders. George "Bugs" Moran, Capone's arch-rival, who was supposed to be in the garage on the day of the murders, told reporters, "Only Capone kills like that."
More about Al Capone:
- The only indication of Al Capone having a legitimate occupation comes from an early business card, on which he describes himself as a secondhand furniture dealer.
- Capone served seven years of a 10-year prison sentence at Alcatraz, near San Francisco.
- Capone contracted syphilis at some point, and the resulting brain damage from the untreated disease eroded his intellect to that of a 12-year-old. He died of a heart attack following pneumonia on 25 January 1947, in Florida.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much money did Al Capone reportedly spend on bribes?
Al Capone, the notorious gangster of the Prohibition era, is reported to have spent an estimated $30 million on bribes to keep law enforcement and politicians in his pocket. This figure, adjusted for inflation, would amount to hundreds of millions of dollars today, showcasing the extent of his influence and the corruption that pervaded Chicago during the 1920s and 1930s.
Who were the recipients of Al Capone's bribes?
Al Capone's bribes were distributed across a wide network of recipients, including law enforcement officers, judges, and politicians. The intent was to ensure protection for his illegal activities, which ranged from bootlegging to gambling. This network of corruption was a testament to Capone's power and the depth of his criminal enterprise's reach into the fabric of society.
How did Al Capone's bribery impact law enforcement and political systems of his time?
The bribery by Al Capone had a profound impact on law enforcement and political systems, leading to widespread corruption and a breakdown of legal order. It undermined the integrity of public institutions and allowed Capone's criminal activities to flourish. The extent of his influence was so significant that it prompted the federal government to take unprecedented steps to combat organized crime and eventually led to his downfall.
What were the consequences of Al Capone's bribery for his criminal enterprise?
While Al Capone's bribery initially provided his criminal enterprise with a shield against legal repercussions, it ultimately contributed to his downfall. The federal government, recognizing the severity of corruption, intensified its efforts to prosecute Capone, leading to his conviction on tax evasion charges in 1931. This marked a turning point in the fight against organized crime and highlighted the limitations of bribery as a means of protection.
How did the public perceive Al Capone's use of bribes during his era?
The public's perception of Al Capone's use of bribes was mixed. Some viewed him as a modern-day Robin Hood, while others saw the corruption he fostered as a blight on society. The media's portrayal of Capone as a charismatic figure contributed to his notoriety, but as the negative consequences of his actions became more apparent, public opinion shifted, demanding greater accountability and reforms to curb such widespread corruption.