What do any of us really know about the Mob here in Chicago? Yes, I watched Robert Stack (as Eliot Ness) in The Untouchables in the 60s, and it scared the cr*p out of me. Many stories exist, some true, some not. Yet, I think we all have a fascination about their fame and notorious crimes.
The most famous mobster was none other than Al Capone. And his influence reached California, Florida, and Nevada. Unlike New York City’s Five Families, Capone and the Chicago Mob was the most powerful, even though they did not have a complete monopoly on organized crime.And unlike New York’s infamous Five Families, the Chicago mob consisted of only one family, often referred to as the “Outfit.” It was organized under a variety of crews that engage in various criminal activities. A portion of the crews’ illegal gains went to the Outfit’s top bosses.
From the FBI website: The Outfit has traditionally stayed away from drug trafficking, preferring instead crimes such as loan-sharking and online gambling operations and capitalizing on other profitable vices. One of the reasons it is so difficult to completely stamp out mob activity, is that over time the crews have insinuated themselves into unions and legitimate businesses.
“Typically, they get into running restaurants and other legal businesses that they can use to hide money gained from their illicit activities. Over the years, the Outfit has learned that killing people brings too much heat from law enforcement. Today they might not even beat up a businessman who doesn’t pay back a debt.” Instead, they take a piece of his business, and then, over time, exercise more and more control over the company.
The first true crime lord in Chicago was not Al Capone, but at Michael Cassius McDonald, a gambler who arrived in Chicago in 1868. McDonald later got his man, Carter Harrison, elected mayor, gaining control of Chicago, and all of Indiana’s bookmaking rights. Through a variety of crime bosses over the next 50 years, eventually Johnny Torio brought Al Capone to Chicago from New York. His rather short seven year reign of crime ended when he went to prison at the age of 33. He was convicted of five counts of income tax evasion in 1931. He served only eight of the eleven years due to his neurosyphilis completely debilitating him.
Most people do not know he played semipro baseball from 1916 to 1918. During the Great Depression, he donated to charities and sponsored a soup kitchen in Chicago. Due to his good behavior at Alcatraz, he was allowed to play the banjo in the prison band, “The Rock Islanders.” He was transferred in 1939 to Terminal Island in Southern California to serve out the remained of his contempt of court charge.
You can read about his life elsewhere, I just wanted to highlight some lesser-known facts about the mobster. I once knew a guy who said he had mafia connections. I asked him if he could make my car disappear. He responded by saying he could make my wife disappear!!!