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Alvin Karpis
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    (August 10, 1907-August 26, 1979)
    Born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada
    Birth name was Albin Karpavicius
    Formed the Barker-Karpis gang with Ma Barker’s sons Alvin, Arthur and Fred (1931)
    Arrested by FBI agents led by J. Edgar Hoover (May 1, 1936)
    Sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to kidnapping and conspiracy charges
    Spent 26 years in Alcatraz (1936-62)
    After Alcatraz closed, was transferred to McNeil Island Penitentiary in Washington state
    Released from jail and deported to his native Canada (1969)
    Wrote the memoirs ‘Public Enemy Number One’ (1971)
    He was nicknamed ‘Creepy’ for his dour looks.
    His looks became creepier after an underworld plastic surgeon bungled an operation to change his appearance.
    He started in crime when he was ten, selling pornography and serving as a runner for gamblers, pimps and bootleggers.
    At 19, he was sentenced to ten years in the Kansas State Reformatory for an attempted burglary.
    He escaped with another inmate and went on a year-long crime spree until he was caught stealing a car.
    The Barker-Karpis gang was responsible for a string of bank robberies throughout the Midwest and two high-profile kidnappings: brewer William Hamm (ransomed for $100,000) and banker Edward Bremer (ransomed for $200,000).
    He probably killed Sheriff C. Roy Kelley, who had been investigating one of the gang’s robberies, but he blamed the murder on the conveniently dead Fred Barker.
    He abandoned his eight-months pregnant girlfriend while escaping from an FBI bust.
    He frequently got into fights with other inmates at Alcatraz.
    When he was deported to Canada, he had trouble proving his identity to Canadian authorities because his fingerprints had been removed (by the same physician who screwed up the plastic surgery on his face).
    His death was initially ruled suicide by an overdose of sleeping pills, then death from natural causes. Despite the discrepancy, no autopsy was performed.
    He was the only person designated ‘Public Enemy #1’ by the FBI to be taken alive. (The other criminals receiving the designation were John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby Face Nelson.)
    The FBI had apparently been planning a similar fate for Karpis, since when J. Edgar Hoover ordered agents to handcuff him, it turned out that no agent had brought along a pair of handcuffs. (Instead, his wrists were bound together with an agent’s necktie.)
    He claimed that Hoover came out to arrest him only after other agents had surrounded him and signaled to the FBI director that it was safe to approach.
    According to the official FBI version of the arrest, Hoover reached into Karpis’ car and grabbed him before the gangster could grab a gun in the back seat.
    However, Karpis was driving a Plymouth coupe, which has no back seat, when he was arrested.

Credit: C. Fishel

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