There are all sorts of criminals out there, but the ones who made it into the history books had their eyes set on something much bigger than just petty thefts. They took it to the next level, so much so that they created a career and even entire empires out of it. Most people say that crime doesn’t pay, except in the cases where it actually does, even more so than an honest, legal job. In no particular order, here are five examples of people whose life of crime certainly paid off.
1. Al Capone
America’s most renowned mobster went from a poverty-filled childhood to accumulating the equivalent of $1.3 billion in today’s money. In less than a decade, Al Capone went from a small-time gang member to the ruthless leader of the Chicago Outfit by the age of 26. A gang with whom he committed at least 33 known hits as a boss alone. Nothing lasts forever, and the real-life Scarface’s seven-year reign as a crime lord came tumbling down thanks to the IRS who charged him with 22 counts of tax evasion.
2. Pablo Emilio Escobar
Pablo Escobar had many nicknames during his time at the top of the food chain, so to speak. The Columbian native had a stronghold on the narcotics industry, smuggling hundreds and even thousands of tons of the contraband into the U.S. At one point, Escobar alone was responsible for more than 80% of the market in the country. And it wasn’t just in the U.S., Escobar did “business” on just about every continent minus Antarctica, racking in an impressive $420 million per week. His exact net worth remains unknown, but it is believed to be around a whopping $59 billion in modern money.
3. Bernard “Bernie” Madoff
Bernie Madoff was a career financier who pulled off one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in history. The entire ordeal started after he founded Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities which led to the creation of the NASDAQ stock market who enticed investors on the promise of a 10-12% monthly return. But he never did, and instead deposited the money into his own personal Chase bank account. This went on for three decades and by the time his two sons turned him in, he had already accrued nearly $826 million, currently worth $64.8 billion. He died in prison in 2021 while serving a 150-year sentence.
4. Griselda Blanco
Griselda Blanco is often seen as the female version of Pablo Escobar and while her estimated net worth paled in comparison to his, it was still way more than what most people currently make in their lifetimes. At the height of her power, she raked in nearly $80 million per month, which grew to an estimated $2 billion by the time of her death. The Columbian native was well-known for her brutality and violence, having committed thousands of hits in her time. This earned her many nicknames including the Black Widow.
5. Allen Stanford
On the surface, Allen Stanford appeared to be an upstanding and influential businessman and chairman of the Stanford Financial Group. The company specialized in banking and wealth management. He was also an enthusiastic philanthropist who engaged in many charity events. But it was all a front for his massive Ponzi scheme which included bribery, money laundering and political manipulation. Like Bernard Madoff, the court didn’t go easy on him and sentenced him to 110 years in prison. He racked up an impressive $7 billion, and then another $2 billion before his lifelong conviction.
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