Bringing down Public Enemy No. 1: IRS makes Al Capone’s records public

It's been 77 years since Al Capone was prosecuted, and now the IRS is releasing documents about the country's most celebrated tax evasion case. The documents reveal the extreme lengths federal agents were willing to go to bring down Chicago's most notorious crime boss, even sending one knowledgeable bookkeeper to South America for safekeeping.

"The evidence shows the IRS agents really did get out of the office and track down this accountant and really put the screws to him to get him to testify," Chicago author Jonathan Elg told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Elg is writing a book tentatively titled, Get Capone, about the investigation that led to the arrest and conviction of Al Capone, who was found guilty of five counts of tax evasion and failing to file a tax return. Known as Public Enemy No. 1, Capone was sentenced to 11 years in prison but was released for good behavior after six and one-half years.

The IRS said releasing the five documents, which total 90 pages, was a "highly unusual" move, according to Bloomberg.com, which reported that the agency decided to make the memos public because Capone never filed a tax return. The documents "are of historical significance and of interest to the public," the IRS said.

The memos released concern the period from 1931 to 1936 and were obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request by Elg. They show how agents worked to connect Capone's income to its sources, such as prostitution and gambling and bootlegging, during the Prohibition Era.

Bloomberg.com quoted one memo as saying, "Al Capone never had a bank account and only on one occasion could it be found where he ever endorsed a check, all of his financial transactions being made in currency. Agents were unable to find where he ever purchased any securities, therefore, any evidence secured had to be developed through the testimony of associates or others, which, through fear of personal injury, or loyalty, was most difficult to obtain."

A confidential copy of a 1931 treasury department document posted on the IRS web site declared, "Alphonse Capone is, without a doubt, the best advertised and most talked of gangster in the United States today." Capone died in 1947.

You can read the IRS information about Al Capone.

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