Wednesday, December 17, 2014
FROM THE ARCHIVES - FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY Business North - Around The Region - Duluth & Superior Newspaper Al Capone's 'Hideout’ foreclosure stirs national attention Al Capone’s former sister-in-law disputes lore that that he used it to ferry Canadian whiskey to Chicago during Prohibition. 10/6/2009 by Eric Hjerstedt Sharp HAYWARD— The Sawyer County Register of Deeds has been inundated with calls about the pending Sheriff’s sale of The Hideout, Inc. in nearby Couderay, a legendary safe house for Chicago gangster Al Capone. A tourist attraction for decades, the 407-acre wooded site with its own private lake and castle-like stone house is in foreclosure and slated for auction on Oct. 8. “You can look at all the (records) if you want, but you are not going to find Capone’s name on any of the titles,” said one office employee. “He was never the owner.” A flood of newspaper stories about the foreclosure spiked interest in the property after the Chippewa Valley Bank of Winter placed a legal foreclosure sale notice in the Chicago Tribune. The bank initiated the foreclosure after the latest owners, Guy and Michelle Houston, defaulted on their mortgage. They don’t have a listed telephone in the area and their attorney Todd Smith did not return telephone inquiries seeking further details. Minimum bid for the property is set at $2.5 million, said Charles Warner, the bank’s vice president. (Johnson Bank in Hayward is handling museum exhibits and other Hideout items separately from the Sheriff’s sale.) Warner said he did not know about the property’s supposed use by the gangster during the Prohibition era. Lore has it that Capone and his gang used it to receive whiskey shipments via seaplane from Canada for transport to Chicago. It also raises the possibility that Capone and fellow mobsters used The Hideout to plot the bloody 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of seven members of the rival Bugs Malone gang in Chicago. His former sister-in-law, Madeline Morichetti, 87, disputes the claim that Capone frequented The Hideout. She lives in a Hurley nursing home. A nurse before she married Al’s brother, Ralph “Bottles” Capone, Morichetti chairs the Iron County Republican Party. She has one daughter from her first marriage, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. After Ralph’s death, Madeline married his business partner and friend, the late Sarafeno “Suds” Morichetti. In a late September interview, she said Ralph told her neither he nor his brother ever had stepped foot on the Couderay property. Al Capone was never charged with the St. Valentine’s murders, but was convicted of income tax evasion in 1931 and served an 11-year federal prison term. In 1945, Madeline and Ralph built a house near Mercer on a lake just off Iron County Highway J. She said her infamous brother-in-law stayed at the house for part of two summers before his death in 1947. In The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre: The Untold Story of the Gangland Bloodbath That Brought Down Al Capone, published in 2004, authors William Helmer Jr. and Arthur Bilek write that Capone ”may have hatched the devious plot at an autumn 1928 gathering” at the resort. When approached about such allegations when the couple was still living in Mercer, Madeline said Ralph dismissed the legend as a promotional stunt to capitalize on the Capone name. “He was good-natured, and dismissed such talk by telling friends the promoters were merely doing their job,” she said. His widow isn’t so charitable. ‘If they are going to capitalize on untruths, I want it stopped. Any writer that doesn’t want to write the truth, draws conclusions and gets things from here and there to make up a story . . .that’s what happened all these years,” Morichetti said. Update (10/9/09): On Oct. 8 the property went to a sheriff’s auction. Despite numerous inquiries from prospective buyers, the only bid came from the Chippewa Valley Bank, which purchased it for $2.6 million with the goal of reselling. Eric Sharp is a freelance writer and public relations practitioner living in Iron River.