Tuesday, October 7, 2008
That is not Ralph Capone's 1996 Dodge Grand Caravan. That is, however, Ralph Capone's house behind it, at 1924 S. 49th Ct., in Cicero.
Born Raffaele Capone in Naples, he immigrated to New York with his parents in infancy, and came to Chicago about a year after his brother, Al. For awhile, he helped Al run a call flat in Rogers' Park, working for the Johnny Torrio syndicate. Later, Ralph became the right-hand man of that organization when Al took over, and ran the entire organization during period when Al was in jail or otherwise away from Chicago. During the salad days of the Capone bootlegging operation, "Bottles", as Ralph was known, organized the distribution of liquor, and also ran several speakeasies and brothels, including the famous Cotton Club in Cicero.
Ralph also became the government's test case in prosecuting racketeers for income tax evasion. Never as smart as his brother, government prosecutors noticed that practically all of Ralph's bank deposits were in multiples of 55, notable since the going rate for a barrel of beer was $55. In addition, after his indictment, Ralph continued operating his distribution business, never considering that his telephones might be tapped. Ralph Capone was the first racketeer to serve a prison sentence for tax evasion. He spent three years at McNeil Island Corrections Center in Puget Sound before being released in 1934.
After release, Ralph continued his job in the Capone organization, working for Frank Nitti, since Al was, by that time, in prison. The government continued to dog Ralph throughout the rest of his life, primarily on income tax charges, although he never went back to prison, and eventually retired to Mercer, Wisconsin, where he died in 1974.