Seeking Good PR, IRS Busted With Wrong Capone Gun

After input from readers, the IRS has gotten its story straight
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 17, 2016 12:01 PM CDT
Seeking Good PR, IRS Busted With Wrong Capone Gun
This Jan. 19, 1931 file photo shows Chicago mobster Al Capone at a football game. An intimate letter Capone wrote while imprisoned at Alcatraz sold at auction in Massachusetts on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016.   (AP Photo/File)

It was a story the Internal Revenue Service needed to get right, a we-done-good look back at the 1931 conviction of legendary gangster Al Capone for tax evasion—a feat they pulled off when no one else could get him on any other charges. Hoping for some good press, the IRS announced it would be sending Capone's handgun to the Mob Museum in Las Vegas. And many newspapers ran with the story over the past few weeks, including the Wall Street Journal—but there was just one problem: The Capone handgun meant to showcase the IRS' success was the wrong gun. It took an IRS criminal agent and Journal readers to notice, and museum visitors alerted the museum, the Journal now reports.

At first blush the guns look similar. The one that was meant to be on display is a Smith & Wesson first confiscated in Miami in 1928 when local police arrested Capone. One of the arresting officers gave it to a tour bus operator, who gave it to a landlord in Detroit, who gave it to a renter, who sold it to a gambler, who was the subject of a 2004 raid. The gun that had been sent to the museum is an Iver Johnson, and had been a gift to Capone from his brother, who was in law enforcement, apparently to help heal the rift between them. Federal agents seized it from a bodyguard during the tax evasion trial in 1931. Now that their stories are "matched up," as the museum's director of content puts it, both guns will be on display. (It's not the first time a museum featuring Capone has showcased the wrong historic item.)

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