Those who claim that crime doesn’t pay probably never met any of the folks on this list. The fifteen wealthiest criminals in the world amassed fortunes from $300 million to $30 billion. And you thought Ted Turner and Warren Buffet were earners. These rich and famous though have had to deal with avoiding the police more often than the paparazzi and sometimes failed. Some names might surprise you. The father of a past U.S. President made the list. A famous subject of rap songs made it, too. And though the list is mostly male, one woman made it to the top, shattering the glass ceiling of the organized crime world. For some, crime was their beginning in big business, for others remained their business. Whether they parlayed it into a legimate income or remained on the run, here are the 15 wealthiest criminals.
15. Name: Zhenli Ye Gon
Net worth: $300 million
Crimes: Illegal drug sales
About: The Chinese Gon opened up shop in Mexico selling pseudoepinephrine. That’s quite a commute, but the view is nice.
14. Name: Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr.
Net worth: $400 million
Crimes: Bootlegging and illegal alcohol sales
About: Most think of the patriarch of the famed Kennedy clan as a legitimate businessman, but he started out as bootlegger. During the US’s post-WWI Prohibition era, Kennedy partnered with Frank Costello, then-head of the Luciano crime family to arrange smuggling alcohol into the US for easy distribution during the period.
13. Name: Rick Ross
Net worth: $600 million
Crimes: Crack cocaine sales
About: In the 90s, crack was the cheap drug of choice on the party scene. Ross helped people party really hearty. Really because crack is cheap.
12. Name: Rafael Caro Quintero
Net worth: $650 million
Crimes: Murder mostly
About: As a hitman with the Guadalajara Cartel, Quintero asassinated whoever the cartel needed taken out, including federal agents and some pilots. Murder for hire makes one a lucrative income.
11. Name: Joaquín Guzmán Loera
Net worth: $1 billion
Crimes: “CEO” of the Sinaloa Cartel
About: As you’re probably noticing, cartel work pays well. Loera ran one of Mexico’s biggest organized crime operations. He’s been arrested multiple times, most recently in 2014. Despite that, Forbes once named him one of the most powerful people on earth.
10. Name: Al Capone
Net worth: $1.3 billion
Crimes: Organized crime; specialized in alcohol smuggling and murder
About: Imagine the dinner conversation. “What did you do at work today?” “Delivered some whiskey and whacked a guy. You?” Capone did great until the FBI partnered with the IRS and arrested and successfully prosecuted him for… tax evasion.
9. Name: Griselda Blanco
Net worth: $2 billion
Crimes: Cocaine smuggling
About: Lest you think it’s an all boys club of the serious earners, meet “The Black Widow” Blanco. She smuggled cocaine into the US with style and earned a spot in the top ten. Go girl!
8. Name: Carlos Lehder
Net worth: $2.7 billion
Crimes: co-founder of the famed Medellin Cartel
About: Manufacture and distribution of cocaine. Cocaine is huge business and the rest of the world had to take up the slack since for many years, the Italian mafia, La Cosa Nostra refused to enter the drug trade. Enter the Medellin cartel to fill the gap. Lehder and three his co-workers appear on this list.
7. Name: Rodríguez Orejuela Brothers
Net worth: $3 billion
Crimes: founded the Cali cartel; specialized in manufacture and distribution of illegal drugs
About: Drugs as a family business paid well until they were arrested and convicted. The brothers currently reside in a US prison.
6. Name: José Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha
Net worth: $5 billion
Crimes: Medellin cartel member; organized crime
About: Gacha worked above the radar and earned so well that he attracted the notice of then-US President George W. Bush, who specifically targeted him in an investigation. When the cops came for him though, he killed himself rather than live in captivity.
5. Name: Khun Sa
Net worth: $5 billion
Crimes: Illegal drugs and weapons sales
About: Sa sold whatever people wanted. Big business requires protection. Instead of a bodyguard, he had his own army.
4. Name: The Ochoa Brothers
Net worth: $6 billion
Crimes: members of the Medellin Cartel
About: By now, you’ve probably realized that the Medellin is top of the charts of the crime business. They got so many mentions on “Miami Vice” for good reason. These brothers began their operation in a steakhouse.
3. Name: Dawood Ibrahim
Net worth: $6.7 billion
Crimes: arms trafficking; bombing; points shaving scheme
About: A truly epic earner, Ibrahim didn’t really specialize as much as he diversified. He dabbled and it paid off.
2. Name: Amado Carrillo Fuentes
Net worth: $25 billion
Crimes: Mexican cartel member
About: Fuentes tried to evade authorities by changing his appearance with plastic surgery. You make a lot of enemies in the process of illegally earning $25 billion. His own bodyguards assassinated him during his seclusion for surgery.
1. Name: Pablo Escobar
Net worth: $30 billion
Crimes: “CEO” of the Medellin Cartel
About: The Columbian crime lord earned such legendary status that he’s immortalized in American raps. The government wanted to stop his cocaine distribution, but the local population adored him because he gave back to his community.