The Price of Crime: 6 of the All-Time Wealthiest Gangsters

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Despite the allure of wealth and notoriety, a life of crime is never the most prudent course of action. And, generally speaking, the truism “crime doesn’t pay” has stood the test of time. But for some career criminals, their life in the underworld brought them wealth beyond their wildest dreams.

Here’s some of the wealthiest gangsters of all time.

Al Capone

One of the most notorious gangsters in American history, Al Capone operated the Chicago mafia during the criminally lucrative Prohibition Era. Ruthless, cunning and insatiable, Capone garnered his income from a variety of illicit enterprises, including bootlegging and the operation of gambling dens.

Capone was somewhat of a pop icon during his heyday, but certain events, such as the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre, led to the demise of his public reputation. Experts believe that Capone – at the height of his empire – employed over 600 soldiers to manage and protect his vast assets and businesses.

In current monetary value, Capone’s empire would be now worth around $1.3 billion. Yes, you read that correct. Over one billion dollars!

After being released from prison, Capone spent his remaining years in extremely bad health. In 1947, Capone died of natural causes in his Florida mansion.

Griselda Blanco

Miami’s “Cocaine Queen” was a high ranking member of Colombia’s Medellin drug cartel. Using intimidation, brutality and sheer violence,  Griselda Blanco had a stranglehold on the Miami drug trade throughout the 1970s and ‘80s. It is said that Blanco’s business was bringing in around $80 million a month during the peak of her operations.

The “Black Widow”  was responsible for up to 200 murders during her drug smuggling days – which involved moving cocaine from Colombia to Miami, Southern California and New York. After spending time in an American jail and released due to a technicality, Blanco was deported back to Colombia in 2004. Her wealth, at its zenith, was valued at approximately $500 million.

In 2012, Blanco was assassinated in Medellin, Colombia.

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman

Joaquin Guzman, otherwise known as “El Chapo” (or “Shorty”) is a ruthless and dangerous Mexican drug lord who heads the Sinaloa Cartel. Forbes magazine has ranked El Chapo as the world’s most powerful drug kingpin. He is one of the richest men in Mexico, with an estimated worth of approximately $1 billion.

The United States DEA considers El Chapo to be the “godfather of the drug world” and many in law enforcement believe his sphere of influence has surpassed that of the notorious Pablo Escobar.

In January 2017, the United States extradited Guzman so that he may stand trial for numerous high level criminal charges in connection with his role as the head of the dangerous Sinaloa Cartel.

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Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno

In the 1960s, Fat Tony – based in East Harlem –  controlled one of the largest numbers racket operations in New York City, which was estimated to gross up to $50 million per year.  Although a large number of Italian mobsters moved out Harlem and East Harlem when those neighborhoods became predominantly Latino and African-American, Salerno kept his headquarters in East Harlem, not far from where he was born.

Salerno was once the boss and underboss for the infamous Genovese crime family, which was started by the infamous Italian mobster Lucky Luciano. By the mid-1980s, Fat Tony had accumulated a wealth of over $1 billion. Salerno was convicted of racketeering charges in 1988, and was sentenced to 70 years in prison.

In 1992, Salerno died in federal prison.

Frank Lucas

Dealing heroin out of Harlem in the late 1960s through the early 1970s, Lucas broke the drug trade monopoly  held by New York’s Italian mafia. How did he break the monopoly? He traveled to Bangkok, Thailand and secured a direct connection in the famed opium producing area of Southeast Asia known as the ‘Golden Triangle.’

Lucas cut out the middleman, and this unique business model served him well. Lucas’ drug empire was at its peak during the Vietnam War, and it is claimed that his heroin was smuggled in the pallets used to ship the coffins of fallen American soldiers.  Lucas accumulated a net worth of approximately $52 million.

Despite being sentenced to 70 years in prison, Lucas has served two separate prison terms for only a total of 12 years. He is 86 years old and the father of seven kids.

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Pablo Escobar

Needing no introduction, Pablo Escobar is infamously known as being one of the most powerful, wealthiest and ruthless gangsters of the modern era. Dubbed a narco-terrorist by international law enforcement, Escobar’s wealth was built by flooding the United States with an exorbitant amount of cocaine.

By the late 1980s, Escobar controlled over 40% of the Medellin Cartel’s drug business. Commencing in 1987, Escobar made it on Forbes’ list of international billionaires for seven straight years. At one point in his notorious career, he offered to pay down his native Colombia’s national debt – a whopping $10 billion.

In 1993, Escobar was killed by the Colombian National Police after a massive and time consuming manhunt. At the time of his death, Escobar’s net worth was $30 billion, of which most (if not all) of the income was derived from his cocaine trade.

 

Many of these infamous individuals have been glamorously portrayed in television and film, but despite any of the allure shown in popular media, they were cold-blooded killers that destroyed neighborhoods and families. Can you think of any notorious gangsters that amassed a great deal wealth like these criminals?

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About jchasenovelist

Published thriller author, criminologist, and blogger.
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