John Stege was a true Chicago rarity, an honest cop who made it to Captain.
Stege spent his life attacking Chicago mobsters and bandits, but his greatest success came as a result of the murder of 26 years old County Prosecutor William McSwiggin, who had vainly prosecuted several gangsters.
In April 1926, Westside gang leaders Klondike and Myles O’Donnell were partying at a Cicero tavern. The O’Donnell gang was in the process of moving into Capone’s Cicero territory. As the O’Donnells and four friends left the Pony Inn, a car sped out of the darkness. A quick burst of submachine gun fire dropped three of the party. The O’Donnells escaped unharmed.
The next morning, three bodies were found, including that of McSwiggin.
State’s Attorney Robert Crowe was a corrupt mob crony, but the murder of his young associate forced him to deputize 100 city detectives for county duty to clean out mob saloons, brothels and gambling houses.
Stege personally led the police team that dealt serious losses to Capone’s Cicero organization, smashing barrels of beer, cases of liquor, slot machines and crap tables, watching in benign neglect as local vigilantes burned down the Stockade, Capone largest brothel. Ultimately more important than this was the fact that Stege seized key ledgers wich later were used in Federal income tax evasion cases against the Capone mob.
The raids ended when Capone came out of hiding to reveal that McSwiggin, the supposedly martyred prosecutor, had actually been on the mob’s payroll.
Stege continued to battle crime, leading Chicago’s famed “Dillinger Squad”, which captured several bandits.
(1992 Max Allan Collins & George Hagenauer)
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