Al Capone and Organized Crime



In a fight at the Harvard Inn, 18-year-old Al Capone’s face was slashed, leaving him with a scar and the nickname “Scarface.” The same year, Five Points Gang members Nathan Kaplan and Johnny Spanish were released from prison



The American government banned the sale and supply of alcohol



Seven men of the North Side Irish gang were murdered on February 14



Capone was imprisoned for tax evasion



Capone arrived at Alcatraz for his sentence



Charles “Lucky” Luciano was sentenced to prison on 62 counts of compulsory prostitution



Capone suffered a fatal heart attack on January 25

The First Scarface was Not Al Pacino* or Brad Terrence Jordan**


Al Capone: The Original Scarface

In 1917, while Al Capone was a bartender at the Harvard Club*** in Brooklyn, he inadvertently (or not) commented to a woman at a table, “Honey, you have a nice ass and I mean that as a compliment.” Unfortunately, the woman was accompanied by her brother, Frank Galluccio (a neighborhood thug) who took umbrage with Al and slashed him across the face three times – hence his nickname, Scarface.


The Kick-Off of Organized Crime

Organized crime certainly wasn’t “born” in 1917, but the date is seminal given that Scarface had been created. In addition, members of the former Five Points Gang were released from prison and re-grouped as a new criminal gang. One of the gang members, Frankie Yale, just happened to be Al’s boss at the Harvard Inn. The tangled web had been woven.


So Many Gangs, Too Little Time

In the late 1800s, New York City’s tenements teemed with poverty and begot violence ranging from robber to prostitution to murder. And, they did not play well together – the Bowery Boys (albeit well-dressed) fought with the Dead Rabbits and enjoyed voter intimidation among their pursuits. The Daybreak Boys took crime and violence from the streets to the river, becoming “pirates” and stealing from the ships in the harbor. The Five Points gang was a melding of the Dead Rabbits and Whyos gangs. These early gangs tutored members of the 20th century gangs/gangsters, such as Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, and Johnny Torrio.


How Do Gangs Operate Today?

In a 2016 article about organized crime, author Ben Horowitz explains that mobs and gangs have not gone away – they’re just using different methods to operate. Some of the new groups are not connected to an organized mob, but they do have strong technology and computer skills. Robert Bianchi, interviewed for the article, said, “The computer is the new conduit by which all the groups are doing business.” The computer opens avenues such as credit card fraud and vulnerabilities in the financial industries. And there is certainly no dearth in the news currently about foreign gangs infiltrating the United States.


Did You Know?

  • Al Capone eventually became a bodyguard for Frank Galluccio – the man who had given him his nickname.
  • Al Pacino’s 1983 Scarface was a remake of Scarface: The Shame of the Nation produced in 1932 by Howard Hughes.
  • Armitage Trail wrote the novel, Scarface, about Al Capone in 1929.
  • The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre site at 2122 N. Clark Street in Chicago****
  • View a 1976 8mm video of the SVDM site on YouTube


* Let’s assume you know who Al Pacino is

** Brad Terrence Jordan is an active rapper, music producer, and author who was born and raised in Houston, TX

*** Harvard Club was an elegant phrase for a cheap bar and brothel

**** The site has been visited by this intrepid writer – though in broad daylight, I must confess



Visit the Mob Museum in Las Vegas NV

Read the Mob Museum blog about the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

2014 List of 25 Notoriously Dangerous Gangs (worldwide)

Herbert Asbury wrote The Gangs of New York in 1928; many of whom were portrayed in Martin Scorsese’s 2002 film Gangs of New York.

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