Al Capone learns about taxes

March 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

AN EXCERPT FROM William and John Balsamo’s book Young Al Capone. This bit of reconstructed dialogue is between the young future mob boss — who at that time was a Brooklyn shoeshine kid — and one of his customers.

“Do you know who those people are?” the customer mumbled.

“I just finished telling you mister, I’m new around here. I don’t know anybody down here except another shoeshine kid. Why? are they big shots or something?”

“The one with the brown overcoat and fedora is. His name is Balsamo and he’s like … the boss around here.” …

“What do you mean the ‘boss’? the youngster inquired. … “Is he the pope’s brother, or what?”

“To the people in this neighborhood, he’s held in such high regard that some call him the Mayor of Union Street,” the customer answered.

After completing the first shoe, the boy paused for a moment, then asked, “What does he do for a living? Is he a killer?”…

“To answer your question about what he does for a living, he owns a fish market,” the customer said. “But that’s not how he makes most of his money. Did you see all those pushcarts around the corner? … Every week, without fail, they pay accamura to him.”

“Never heard of that! What does that mean?” …

“Accamura is insurance money. That’s what.” …

Alphonse learned that it was insurance against a certain calamity striking a business establishment.

“Why are people afraid of him?” the boy inquired. “He better not try fucking around with me.”

The customer scoffed at the youngster’s remark and disclosed one of the man’s sources of power. “Batista Balsamo’s got plenty of muscle guys working for him and that’s what makes him tick.” …

The young boy remained stunned by the revelations. To think, that one guy could interfere with another’s business by threatening violent repercussions. … The wheels in his head spun faster than the wheels of the trolley as he pictured himself, along with his gang, reaping benefits from the labor of working suckers.

[V]ery soon, the band of would-be extortionists were hitching their way down the slope to Alphonse’s “garden of wealth.” The first shoeshine boy that they encountered on the strip was Jerry, the pale-faced kid with the rhinestone-embellished shine box.

Capone walked up to him, followed by Tony Scraps and Charlie, and proceeded in his attempt to offer the frightened kid “protection.” He asked Jerry if he would let him examine his shoeshine box. When the first victim of their extortion scheme did so, Capone flung the strap over his shoulder and started to walk away. …

“You’ll have to kick in ten cents, if you want to be a part of our club,” he told Jerry … The nervous boy did just that when he found himself surrounded by five tough-looking hoodlums, one of them holding his beloved shine box hostage.

Jerry soon turned over the dime to Alphonse, asking, “Is this gonna be every week?” Alphonse handed the box back after receiving payment. Capone stared at the kid and replied, “No, this is gonna be every day.”

“Every amusement park, every stand, every ride, and every hot dog business had to pay acamurra – protection money to Frankie Yale [Al Capone’s mob mentor during his boyhood in Brooklyn] and his mob. If you did not pay or you protested, the Yale mob would burn you down.”

– William Balsamo & John Balsamo: Young Al Capone: The Untold Story of Scarface in New York, 1899-1925

 

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