(born Jan. 17, 1899, Brooklyn, N.Y., U.S.—died Jan. 25, 1947, Palm Island, Fla.) U.S. gangster. Quitting school after the sixth grade, he joined the James Street Boys gang, led by Johnny Torrio. In a youthful fight in a brothel-saloon he was slashed across the left cheek, prompting the later nickname “Scarface.” In 1919 he joined Torrio in Chicago to help run prostitution there. When Torrio retired (1925), Capone became the city's crime czar, running gambling, prostitution, and bootlegging rackets. He expanded his territory by killing his rivals, most famously in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, in which members of the Bugs Moran gang were machine-gunned in a garage on Feb. 14, 1929. In 1931 Capone was convicted for income-tax evasion and sentenced to 11 years in prison; eventually he served time in the new Alcatraz prison (see Alcatraz Island). Granted an early release from prison in 1939, in part because he suffered from an advanced stage of syphilis, he died a powerless recluse at his Florida estate.
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Born Raffaele James Capone, Ralph Capone was brought to Chicago by his brother Al and placed in charge of the Chicago Outfit's bottling plants during Prohibition. The Outfit was attempting to monopolize non-alcoholic beverages and soft drinks (specifically ginger ale and soda water, commonly used in mixed drinks) during this period when the sale of alcohol was banned. Ralph made large profits for the Outfit and became the dominant soft drink vendor other than Coca-Cola during the 1933 World's Fair. In April 1930, Ralph was included in Frank J. Loesch's "public enemies" list.
Following Al's conviction for tax evasion in 1931, Ralph remained with the Outfit. He hosted several high-level Outfit conferences from Al's residence in Palm Island, Florida. As the manager of Chicago's Cotton Club, Ralph was reportedly involved in syndicate gambling and vice districts. In 1935, Ralph was convicted of tax evasion
In many ways, Ralph was a front man for the Outfit. Authorities once described him as an "elder statesman" of the Outfit. In 1950, the United Press described Ralph as "…in his own right … one of the overlords of the national syndicate which controls gambling, vice, and other rackets". In actuality, Ralph held relatively little power in the Outfit and the National Crime Syndicate. This finally became evident during his testimony before the U.S. Senate Kefauver Committee in 1950. His nephew Alphonse Capone Jr. later changed his notorious name to Ralph but was called "Sonny" by his Capone relatives. The Chicago Outfit which at the time was run by Sam Giancana was taking care of Sonny financially, as they would the widows of Chicago Oufit members. He was trying to start a restaurant called Sonny's Grotto in Miami Beach, Florida. It was agreed that Sonny would still receive his usual stipend, but the request for $24,000 was turned down by Sam Giancana while it was agreed upon by Murray Humphreys, Gussie Alex and Frank Ferraro. The restaurant would later go bankrupt. A month after Ralph's Senate testimony, his nephew, Ralph Capone, Jr. committed suicide by swallowing cold tablets and vodka.