This Day in the Law
October 17

Al Capone Convicted of Income Tax Evasion (1931)

On October 17, 1931, the infamous Chicago gangster, Al Capone, was convicted of federal income tax evasion and later sentenced to prison. Capone had evaded authorities for nearly all of his criminal activities, including murder, racketeering, fraud, and other crimes. However, the diligent work by authorities to catch and document Capone in his crime to evade paying his taxes put Capone behind bars.

Gabriel "Al" Capone was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1899 before he moved to Chicago to lead a criminal organization called the Chicago Outfit. Capone became a major criminal player in the smuggling and bootlegging of liquor during the Prohibition Era of the 1920s and 1930s.

Capone earned the name “Scarface” after his face was slashed in a bar fight. Because of his scar Capone often posed for pictures with only the good side of his face showing.

Capone was known for hiring hit-men to murder those who went against him or betrayed him in some way. In February 1929, Capone organized one of the bloodiest killing sprees in Chicago history called the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre where seven individuals were brutally shot to death in a commercial garage. However, Capone continued to evade authorities.

Finally, in 1931, after diligent work by prosecutors, detectives, and law enforcement, Capone was indicted and eventually convicted for federal income tax evasion and violations of the Volstead Act. Capone then tried to bribe and intimidate potential jurors and others prior to his trial but this plan was thwarted by Elliot Ness and his team of law enforcement.

On this day, October 17, 1931, Al Capone was found guilty of federal income tax evasion. The judge ordered him to serve an eleven-year sentence along with additional fines. Capone served the beginning of his sentence at Atlanta’s U.S. Penitentiary and then transferred to Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay. At Alcatraz, Capone had virtually no way to communicate with the outside world and his power in organized crime slowly diminished.

Capone left Alcatraz in January 1939, and he received an early parole in November 1939 after serving seven years, six months and fifteen days in prison.

Capone moved back to Florida with his family and died in 1947 due to a stroke and pneumonia.