Sunday, November 14, 2021

Al Capone in Aurora... or was he?

Al Capone
Not caring since he's smarter 
than the cops! 
Or so he thought...
808 North Lake Street
Aurora, IL

What does this building at 808 North Lake Street have what no other building in Aurora has (that we know of)?  A direct line of history to the one and only.... Al Capone!

In 1931, the court proceedings were underway for Al Capone for Tax Evasion. It was found that this building was part of Al Capone's bootlegging syndicate. Several men were arrested for their involvement with Al Capone's bootlegging syndicate in Aurora from this location. So, the next time you're driving down Lake Street and go past this house, just remember that it is a history with Al Capone.

June 6, 1931
Decatur Herald
Federal agents had broken up an enterprise that was attributed to Alphonse "Scarface" Capone which distributed 10,000 gallons of alcohol weekly to the Midwest and operated a "protection system" under which liquor could be transported over hundreds of miles of highways. 
There were 20 men connected with the scheme and had been arrested in raids at the Aurora, Illinois headquarters (808 N. Lake Street) and also in Waterloo, Iowa.

The Aurora syndicate had been under the leadership of Mike Myers, a Capone lieutenant and had been operating for four years. Since November of 1930, there were undercover agents working to obtain the evidence on which arrests were made.

High-grade alcohol was made by the combining of re-cooking moonshine whisky. The sale prices were from $3.00 to $4.00 a gallon (around $50.00 in 2021 currency). 

June 6, 1931
Decatur Herald
Aurora Booze Base Smashed
808 N. Lake Street, Aurora, IL

According to Mike Myers, "Except for one county, we've got the highways greased* from Chicago west to the Mississippi River".  (For those not familiar with the term "greased" meant "to pay for protection".)

The county that Myers mentioned that they couldn't obtain was Lee county of which Dixon (home to Ronald Reagan 40th US President) was the county seat. 

  Some of the men that were arrested in connection with the scheme in Aurora included David Myers, brother of Mike Myers, Joseph Dolf, Joseph Rapstein and three brothers named Anquinaux.

Just a few months after the raid happened at 808 N. Lake Street, Al Capone was arrested for tax evasion on October 17, 1931. The income that Capone received from his liquor, vice and gambling interests were between $103,999.00 up to (if not more than) $257,285.98 between the years 1924-1929. (Between $1,682,162.54 and $4,161,548.07 in 2021 inflation calculations).

June 6, 1931 
Decatur Herald
Raids in Aurora
All that hard work down the sewer!

Al Capone's Income 
Between 1924-1929
Booze and Vice is Big Bucks!
Big Al not happy that the Feds are causing
him to miss the horse races!

So the next time someone brings up that Al Capone used to visit Aurora, it is a huge possibility that he did come in to town to check up on things. Granted, if he came in, that meant his guys had to be on their "A" game and making sure things were on the up and up to Al's specifications. There are always the family legends of Al Capone's hideouts in Aurora, including Leland Hotel (the "penthouse" to which I'm still trying to figure out where that was, it was not the little hut at the top.), the house at 22 W. Park Place over near the Warehouse Church (formerly Knights of Columbus and where the original Samuel McCarty home resided). Plus the rumors of the tunnels in the downtown area where he might have utilized when the police were raiding areas he might have been in. 

**Update** 1/25/22
**I did find out from a very reliable source that Al Capone never visited the Leland Hotel or the Aurora Hotel but was at the Trenier Hotel in Chicago that was owned by the Gosselins. Al had came in to talk to the owners about protection money. Also, there are stories of Al's nephew and brother attending Marmion Military Academy. This one I will dive into and verify for you fine folks! Will update more soon!** 

*cough cough* poor Al is too sick to show up to court
but can still attend horse races!
June 6, 1931
Decatur Herald

Al Capone's Income Tax Evasion Case
June 6, 1931
Decatur Herald

There are so many stories, seemed almost everyone wanted to be known as having a part of Al Capone in their lives. Which I totally understand. It's not every day that you can say that you were *thisclose* to being near one of America's notorious gangsters. One that is still talked about today in different ways. Granted, the man had an evil side but he also helped the people that had practically nothing. Some saw him almost as a "Robin Hood" figure. Stealing from the rich to feed the poor.  Some reports say that he fought to have expiration dates on milk after a relative supposedly had gotten sick from bad milk. He even created the first soup kitchen to help the unemployed be fed during a time when there were no jobs to be found due to the Great Depression. Did he have a heart of gold? Possibly. Did he have an evil streak? Only when someone infringed on his business (St. Valentines Day folks!). The guy was a savvy business man but his only downfall was the tax evasion.... and women. 

"Ya better get me outta this ya chump!
Or I'll get my boys on ya!"...
"Dammit Eddie!!"
Big Al sent up the river to the bay!

On October 17, 1931, Al Capone was sentenced to 11 years for tax evasion and was sent to Cook County Jail then on to Leavenworth Prison. When he was sent to Leavenworth, he was officially diagnosed with syphilis and gonorrhea. He was also suffering from cocaine withdrawal and had  a perforated nasal septum.  After a few years here, he was being accused of manipulating the system and getting cushy treatment while at Leavenworth. 

Easy Eddie's "accident". Goes to show
you... Big Al never forgets.
On a different note/tangent regarding Capone's income tax evasion court hearing. His very own lawyer, Eddie "Easy Eddie" O'Hare had turned against him. 
He was the one that turned to the I.R.S. and
notified them of Capone's tax evasion practices as well as directing them to Capone's bookkeeper. Sound familiar? It was part of the the poignant "baby buggy" scene in my favorite movie "The Untouchables". Eight years after Capone was sent to prison, "Easy Eddie" was assassinated on November 8, 1939 near the corner of Ogden Ave. and Rockwell Street in Chicago. 
His son, Butch O'Hare was a Medal of Honor recipient and 
O'Hare airport was named in honor of Butch.

Now... back to Mr. Capone.... 

When Alcatraz opened up on August 11, 1934, Big Al was sent to the Bay Area prison on August 22, 1934. By this time, Prohibition was already repealed (12/5/1933 to be exact... just in time for Christmas!). Al was already dealing with illness caused by syphilis which he might have contracted early in his career while sampling some of his boss's, "Big Jim" Colosimo's, bordello ladies. Al's mental health started to decline and at one point, while doing his laundry duties, was looking out the window and asked one of the guards what was being built in the bay. The guard told him it was a new bridge that was going to be called the Golden Gate Bridge. Al then asked the guard if there were any cars on it yet, even though the road wasn't built just yet. Granted, he could have been joking and wasn't a mental issue. 

Al served six-and-a-half years and was released on November 16, 1939 to a mental hospital in Baltimore, where he remained for three years. His health rapidly declining, Capone lived out his last days in Miami with his wife. He died of cardiac arrest on January 25, 1947.

Al Capone at his Florida Home

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