ATF

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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

1930-1933

Transfer to Justice

By 1930, the crime fighting mission began to conflict with the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s philosophy of voluntary compliance with the laws. The crime fighting activities of the Bureau of Prohibition were transferred to the U.S. Department of Justice. The U.S. Department of the Treasury created the Bureau of Industrial Alcohol to carry out its remaining regulatory functions. Eliot Ness and his cadre of “Untouchables” gained fame for their struggle against Al Capone and other bootleggers in Chicago. Agent Ness’ team of specially trained agents damaged the Capone organization’s ability to carry out its illegal activities, and ultimately led to the indictment of Capone on over 5,000 prohibition violations under the Volstead Act on October 17, 1931.

21st Amendment Ends Prohibition

In 1933, when prohibition ended with the passage of the 21st Amendment, the Bureau of Prohibition and its successor, the Alcoholic Beverage Unit, were dismantled. President Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order consolidating all Federal agencies enforcing and regulating the liquor industry into one entity. The agents rejoined their former colleagues in the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The new entity became the Alcohol Tax Unit (ATU) of the Internal Revenue Service. In September 1933, Agent Ness transferred from Chicago to Cincinnati as a Senior ATU Investigator, and soon after was promoted to Assistant Investigator in Charge of the Cincinnati office.

The end of the Dry Era

Bureau of Prohibition
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Bureau of Prohibition U.S. Department of Justice 1930-1933