Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Al Capone: Chicago's Most Infamous Mob Boss

Palm Island Estate

When Capone came back from the West Coast, he found himself surrounded by six Joliet policemen with their shotguns aimed at him.  "Well, I'll be damned.  You'd think I was Jesse James.  What's the artillery for?"  In Chicago, the police made things as uncomfortable as possible by surrounding his house and arresting him at the slightest provocation.

Palm Island estate
Palm Island estate

Capone left for Miami where the weather was much better than the Chicago winter, but the reception by the local community was chilly.  He and Mae and Sonny rented a huge house for the season and started to look for a permanent residence.  Through a middleman, he bought the 14-room Spanish style estate at 93 Palm Island which had been built by brewer Clarence Busch.  Over the coming months, he would invest a small fortune in redecorating his new palace in Miami, securing it like a small fortress with concrete walls and heavy wooden doors.

Frank J. Wilson
Frank J. Wilson
The Palm Island estate came to the attention of IRS Intelligence Unit watchdog Elmer Irey.  He chose Frank J. Wilson to head up the job of documenting Capone's income and spending.  The job was monumental: despite Capone's lavish spending, everything was transacted through third parties; despite Capone's incredible wealth, every transaction was on a cash basis.  The major exception was the very tangible assets of the Palm Island estate, which was evidence of a major source of income.

In parallel government move, George Emmerson Q. Johnson, a member of the Scandinavian "old boy's network" in the Midwest, was appointed U.S. attorney for Chicago.   Johnson targeted Capone with unbridled passion.  In the spring of 1928, the violence preceding the April primary election began to escalate out of control.   Johnson himself was the target of bomb threats.  It was not clear who was orchestrating all of this violence, but this time the targets were not gangsters but  U.S. Senator Charles Deneen, a reformer, and a judge.  The unabashedly corrupt Mayor Bill Thompson was presumed responsible since the victims were people who opposed him, but Al Capone, still in Florida, was the scapegoat.

While Mae Capone spent the spring of 1928 on an extravagant decorating spree, Al dedicated himself to establishing himself as a legitimate citizen of Miami.  In spite of the outward show of respectability, Al quietly made plans to solve pressing problems caused by his old boss Frankie Yale.  The liquor supply deal that Capone and Yale had negotiated was experiencing too many hijackings, which Capone believed Yale had initiated.

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