Guest Author - Vance R. Rowe
As my readers may know, I am very interested in the history of the Sicilian and American Mafia. As many people are, I am enthralled by the secret organization. I know they are thieves, murderers, and extortionists and that’s not the part that I love. It is more the mystique of the mafia that I am interested in. The mafia has had many clever ways of making money, hand over fist, ever since prohibition and it is the prohibition era I am writing about this week. One particular aspect of the prohibition era I am writing about, is the law enforcement and more specifically a group of Treasury Department agents specifically formed to combat the illegal booze and brew masters, a group of agents led by a man named Eliot Ness and given the nickname of the Untouchables. They were given this name because they were incorruptible and could not be bought by the gangsters like local police, judges, and politicians were.
Eliot Ness and the Untouchables were based in Chicago and was instrumental in finally bringing Al Capone down. They had a hard time getting him for the many crimes and murders he has committed but was finally jailed for income tax evasion. Although Eliot Ness is most famous for destroying Al Capone’s illegal breweries and helping to finally bring him to justice but he has also worked in Cincinnati, Ohio and Cleveland, Ohio after prohibition was over. He went to work for Cincinnati’s justice department and was in charge of hunting down and destroying illegal moonshine stills in the mountains of Ohio, Kentucky, and even parts of Tennessee. In 1935, Ness moved on to Cleveland to help clean up the crime in that city. Cleveland mayor, Harold Hitz appointed Eliot Ness as the Investigator in Charge of the Treasury Department’s Alcoholic Tax Unit. Ness was age 32 at this appointment and was the youngest man in history to have the title.
Although he had 34 agents under him, Eliot Ness did most of the investigating of corrupt policemen in the city. In October of 1936, Eliot Ness brought the results of his investigations of corrupt policemen to the grand jury. Two hundred police officers resigned after the investigations and fifteen police officials were brought to trial including a deputy investigator, a sergeant, two lieutenants, and a couple of police captains. Eliot Ness did a lot more than law enforcement than this article can do him justice for. He was even involved with a serial killer known as the “Torso Killer” in Cleveland between 1935 and 1938 and received some backlash for his investigation methods which included burning down a homeless camp where the serial killer was said to be living.
Eliot Ness died of a massive heart attack at the age of 54 in his Coudersport, Pennsylvania home on May 16, 1957.