Increasing police harassment in Chicago prompted America’s Number One mobster, Al Capone, to move to Miami. For $40,000, he purchased a waterfront mansion on Palm Island in 1928. Locals were appalled. The country’s Most Wanted was moving to Miami? They tried to run him out of town but Capone was unmoved by public sentiment. Arrested several times and jailed briefly, once, he still managed to run his Chicago empire from afar, even to the point of orchestrating the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. In 1929, the feds put him away for ten months on a concealed weapons charge when he went to Philadelphia, but he was soon out and back in Miami. Famously, the FBI finally got this murderer, bootlegger, gambler, pimp, and extortionist on tax evasion and sent him to prison in Atlanta for eleven years. When his reputation and influence got him special privileges in Atlanta, they moved him to Alcatraz where he served the remainder of his sentence, shortened for good behavior.
But Al was ill. He had contracted syphilis years earlier and the disease was moving into its final stage, with dementia and other miserable symptoms. When he was released from Alcatraz in 1939, he was in pretty bad shape. He returned to Miami where he lingered until 1947. He was 48 when he died.
Al’s grandmother inherited the house. She sold it in 1958, and those owners sold it just last year, for something around $6.7 million. It had been built in 1922–just a few years before Al bought it–by a member of the Busch breweries family, and was about 6,000 square feet before Al put another $100,000 into it to turn it into a fortress with half a dozen Sicilian guards.
The recent re-enactment of Al Capone’s Miami trial (where he beat the charges) brought my attention back to this mobster. He figures in a very minor way in one of my mysteries. Here’s the man who played Al Capone in the re-enactment–a reasonably good likeness.
Read more about it in the NY Times article at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/29/us/29capone.html.