Whoever said that crime doesn’t pay didn’t think about these wealthy criminals. While you may not wish to turn to a life filled with crime, you can stand back and appreciate those who felt they were above the law and accumulated ridiculous amounts of money.
Normal people like us get pulled over for running stop signs, but these people pulled out all of the stops in getting all of those zeroes in their bank accounts. For those seeking a path in the nefarious underworld of criminal activity, selling weapons and drugs has become a way of life.
The criminal element lends itself to being threatened with death or arrest at every turn, but apparently they felt the reward was worth the risks. Of all of the criminal minds to exist in this messed up world, these select few were among the wealthiest. You may recognize some of the names on this list, but make no mistake, these rich criminals were dangerous and committed many crimes to get to the top of the heap.
20. Frank Lucas – $52 million
At the age of 85, Frank Lucas is listed as a retired drug trafficker. His rise to notoriety began when he decided to break the monopoly that the Italian mafia had over the New York drug scene. He traveled to Thailand and was rumored to use replicas of the coffins belonging to dead soldiers in order to traffic narcotics from Bangkok to New York. While he earned $52 million for his criminal enterprise, he was sentenced to a total of twelve years in the slammer.
A movie called “American Gangster” was made about his life and it starred Denzel Washington, but was later criticized for its roots in reality.
19. Jose Figueroa Agosto – $100 million
Jose Figueroa Agosto became the biggest drug dealer in Puerto Rico and detests dealing with authority figures. He was arrested for his various crimes and sentenced to 209 years in prison. He escaped to the Dominican Republic and arrested once again while using a fake identity.
Agosto was last busted in 2010 and has famously stashed his $100 million somewhere he won’t divulge to the authorities.
18. George Jung – $100 million
Boston George blew up on the crime scene for being the singlehanded reason why there was cocaine in the United States in the 1980s. He was arrested in 1984 and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Meanwhile, there was a movie made about his life called “Blow” which starred Johnny Depp. He couldn’t enjoy the fame associated with the flick, but is working hard to create a sequel to the 2001 movie.
17. Nicky Barnes – $105 million
“Mr. Untouchable” Nicky Barnes started out as a heroin user, but after going to jail and cleaning up his act, he realized that there were far more profits in selling heroin. He avoided the police for the longest time since they were said to be on his payroll. By getting cocky with his moniker, he drew the ire of then President Jimmy Carter who personally ordered the DEA to arrest him. After his life sentence, he was released in 1998 and makes his money from selling his story.
16. Paul Lir Alexander – $170 million
While Alexander was smuggling cocaine into the United States, he worked with the feds to shut down his drug smuggling competitors. He grew wealthier after holding a monopoly in the area, but it all came crashing down when he was arrested and sentenced to twelve years behind bars.
In 2005, he was sent back to his home country of Brazil, where he received a 42 year sentence. In 2011, he left prison on work release, but has since escaped – not looking back.
15. Zhenli Ye Gon – $300 million
Zhenli Ye Gon is an executive at a pharmaceutical company in Mexico where he was known for importing large quantities of pseudoephedrine from China. He is a member of the Sinaloa Cartel and while he has had a lot of his money seized, he hasn’t done a whole lot of jail time.
His charges are still pending and many Mexicans believe that he was framed and have “I believe the Chinaman” bumper stickers for sale..
14. Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. – $400 million
Joseph Kennedy is the father of President John F. Kennedy and a booze smuggler during the days of the prohibition era. Even though he was born into wealth, he accumulated more by bootlegging and then investing the cash into real estate.
His nefarious dealings were all swept under the rug in order to preserve the Kennedy name.
13. “Freeway” Ricky Ross – $600 million
In the 1980s, Freeway Ricky Ross earned his millions by smuggling and dealing crack cocaine in Los Angeles. In 1996, he was arrested after trying to buy over 200 pounds of the stuff. He received a reduced sentence and was released from prison in 2009. He wrote a book about his life’s story in 2014 and also sued rapper Rick Ross for using his name.
12. Rafael Caro Quintero – $650 million
Rafael Caro Quintero started the Guadalajara Cartel in Mexico with his brother. He reportedly murdered a bunch of people including a pilot and a federal agent. In 1985, he was incarcerated, but was released from a Costa Rican prison in 2013. He is wanted by both the U.S. and Mexico and is one of the most wanted men in the world.
11. Joaquin Guzman Loera – $1 billion
This guy was considered public enemy number one as head of the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico and started dealing drugs in 2003. He got busted and hauled off to prison in 1993, but bribed the Guatemalan guards to free him in 2001. Since, Mexico and the U.S. offered a huge reward for his capture. His luck ran out in 2014 when the Mexican government arrested him, but interestingly enough, he went willingly.
10. Al Capone – $1.3 billion
Al Capone gained fame during the era of prohibition in the U.S. as the co-founder and boss of the Chicago Outfit. Capone is one of the most notorious gangsters in the history of the United States and he used violence in order to communicate his point to others. He was well liked up until he started killing people at will and that is when the public called for his apprehension.
Capone was imprisoned in May 1932 for tax evasion because that was the only thing the government could get to stick. He died from cardiac arrest in 1947, but in the prior year was said to have the mental capability of a twelve-year-old.
9. Griselda Blanco – $2 billion
Part of the Medellin Cartel in Columbia, Griselda Blanco became known as the Black Widow. She brought in epic amounts of cocaine into the U.S. every year and set up shop in Miami, Florida. She had an Ochoa family member murdered and afterward, was on the run. In 2012, her luck ran out when she was gunned down in a drive-by shooting.
8. Carlos Lehder – $2.7 billion
Carlos Lehder helped found the Medellin Cartel in Columbia and helped to get cocaine brought into Florida. When he was arrested in Connecticut, he hooked up with George Jung and later the two bought a stolen airplane so they could cut out the middle man. He wound up getting caught by the feds and is still serving time for smuggling drugs.
7. The Rodriguez Orejuela Brothers – $3 billion
Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela created a cartel with another guy called the Cali Cartel. They began their drug smuggling with pot, but quickly moved on to cocaine. They were said to be responsible for almost all of the product that was floating around in Europe and the U.S.
They were arrested when Colombian police served them with a search warrant in 1995. Between 2002 and 2003, they were released for a short while, but when the court caught its error, they were arrested again. They were extradited to the United States where they are still serving time.
6. Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha – $5 billion
As part of the Medellin Cartel, Gacha made so much dough that he was listed by Forbes as one of the richest men in the world in 1988. When President George H.W. Bush tried to put a stop to money laundering, Gacha began hiding his cash where the feds couldn’t get to it.
He lead the murder of over 24 men and when the feds closed in, he engaged them in a gun fight that cost him the life of his son. As a result, he committed suicide by hand grenade.
5. Khun Sa – $5 billion
Not only was Khun Sa into smuggling drugs, he also liked smuggling weapons. He built his own army during the Chinese Civil War and went from supplying five percent of the opium in New York to a whopping 90 percent. Khun Sa was wanted by the United States government, but Burmese officials refused to turn him over. He lived out his final years there and died in peace.
4. The Ochoa Brothers – $6 billion
Jorge Luis, Juan David and Fabio Ochoa formed the Ochoa Brothers who were also another part of the giant Medellin Cartel. The brothers helped found the Cartel in the 1970s but in the eighties when the new government leader offered to begin extraditing criminals to the U.S., things got hairy.
After reaching plea bargains, they didn’t spend too much time in jail. Many people on the streets of Colombia showed a lot of support for the brothers because they were seen as sophisticated business men. In effect, they caused a publicity stunt during their most recent arrests claiming that the U.S. wanted them to serve time for crimes of which they’d already been punished.
3. Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar – $6.7 billion
Wanted by the United States and India, Kaskar is the leader of an organized crime syndicate in Mumbai called D-Company. He is wanted for cheating, criminal conspiracy and heading up the crime syndicate. He most notoriously organized and financed the Bombay bombings in 1993 and was considered India’s most wanted man.
His ties to Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda caught the attention of the U.S. government who called upon the U.N. to freeze his monetary assets.
2. Amado Carrillo Fuentes – $25 billion
In the Juarez Cartel, Fuentes got to the top by murdering his boss. Over the course of his drug smuggling career, Fuentes had over two dozen jets flying in mass quantities of cocaine from Colombia to Mexico.
He famously underwent plastic surgery when he was hunted by the Mexican and United States governments in order to avoid all charges. Some believe that his bodyguards killed his surgeons and him while he was under anesthesia, but the details remain a mystery.
1. Pablo Escobar – $30 billion
Pablo Escobar is the most notorious drug lord in the world and headed up the Medellin Cartel in Colombia. He dealt exclusively in cocaine and while he was charismatic, he was a ruthless, violent man whose men smuggled in over $500 million worth of cocaine into the U.S. on a daily basis. He was charged with bribery, racketeering, money laundering, drug smuggling, assassination, bombing, corruption and murder, which ended when he died in a bloody shoot out with the Colombian government in 1993.