Now don’t get us wrong. We don’t mean that these criminals and drug lords are deserving of fame and recognition, but we think it would be interesting for them to be featured in a TV documentary series or program. The drug trade is quite intriguing as well as downright scary, and perhaps some TV shows about these narcos would serve educational purposes. We already know that people love to watch crime-related shows like Cops, CSI, and Law and Order. The reason that these people would be interesting to depict in a TV show is because their lives have taken turns that no one would ever aspire to. Really, who wants to constantly be on the run and paranoid that the person they’re talking to is a DEA agent or police officer? We guess there are some people who want that…but we can’t imagine it.
While most of these narcos hail from Mexico, there are others who were heavy drug lords in the United States, Britain, and Afghanistan. You may not think of the Middle East as being a big place for drug trafficking, but this list will surprise you. We have two men from Afghanistan as well as a drug queen from Colombia who started out on a much different path. It is amazing how people’s lives take a turn for the worst. Some of these drug kingpins are dead or in jail, but some are still out there. That’s a seriously scary thought. Read on to learn more!
15. Héctor Beltrán Leyva
Aged 51, this Mexican drug cartel leader once led the Beltran Leyva Cartel (he took over after his brother Arturo Beltran Leyva was killed). Hector is a tough dude; he even fought with the Marines of Mexico. He was so dangerous that the United States offered up $5 million for any information that led to his arrest. At the end of 2009, Hector was slammed by the United States and the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, put in place by the Department of the Treasury. This sanction prohibited any U.S. business or citizen from working with Hector, and all of his assets in the United States were frozen and deemed inaccessible to Hector. In mid-September, Hector’s wife, Clara Laborin Archuleta, was arrested and detained in Sonora state in Mexico. She, along with other drug cartel members, was suspected of being behind a string of murders in Acapulco, Mexico.
14. Frank Lucas
The name Frank Lucas remains a big one, even though he is now 86 years old. Frank operated a huge heroin dealing operation in New York’s Harlem neighborhood during the 1960s and 1970s. Among Frank’s drug dealing tactics was smuggling heroin via dead United States servicemen’s coffins. He was also known to buy his drugs directly from the source, rather than employ middlemen and liaisons. Frank is one of the most well-known narcos out there, and he was the basis for Denzel Washington’s character in American Gangster. Still, the depiction of Frank Lucas was highly fictionalized, which made it not quite a biopic. He was also featured in just a single episode of Gangland. If Frank were to have a show, we could get a much grimier and real life story. They would need to do it quick because Frank Lucas is old as dirt and confined to a wheelchair.
13. Ismael Zambada Garcia
This leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico is so hardcore that he got plastic surgery to disguise his face permanently. Ismael Zambada Garcia is also known as “El Mayo Zambada” and was previously a member of the Zambada-Garcia faction of the Sinaloa cartel, before assuming a higher leadership position. In short, this guy is not to be messed with. His major procedures have been smuggling cocaine and heroin into the United States, mostly via the city of Chicago. He uses any means necessary, and with his experience in agriculture and plant science, he knew how to work his way up through the cartel ranks. His nephews run the Tijuana Cartel, which was slammed by President Felipe Calderon in years past. As for Ismael, he is mostly linked to the Carrillo Fuentes drug family, and he has been avoiding the fuzz since 1998. His bounty now surpasses $2 million.
12. Amado Carillo Fuentes
Dead at age 40, this is one narco that would be interesting to learn about in a TV series. Amado Carrillo Fuentes had ties to another drug kingpin – Ismael Zambada Garcia. As for Amado, he killed off his own boss in order to assume control of the Juarez Cartel. He is known as the “Lord of the Skies” because he usually employs jets to smuggle drugs. He is also tied to the drug trade in Colombia (he used some of his drug money to pay for some planes from there). Amado’s net worth climbed to $25 billion, making him one of the most prolific drug lords in history. Like his buddy Ismael Zambada Garcia, Amado underwent plastic surgery procedures to change his appearance, but he died during these operations due to complications. A few months after Amado’s death at the hospital, the surgeons who performed the surgery were found dead and encased in cement, with bodily torture obvious.
11. Ramon Arellano Felix
Ramon Arellano Felix was just 37 years old when he died. He was tied to the Tijuana Cartel, which also went by the name the Arellano-Felix Organization. Ramon was quite a character; at over 6 feet tall and weighing more than 200 pounds it was difficult to overcome him. He is believed to have been the mastermind behind a Baja California mass killing that left 12 family members dead. Apparently this family owed money to the cartel and hadn’t paid it. Ramon’s actions led him to be placed on the Ten Most Wanted List in 1997, and he was sanctioned by the Kingpin Act in 2000. During a fight in Sinaloa (as known as a huge drug territory), Ramon was shot by a Mexican police officer, who had stopped him for speeding. Owing to his huge amount of wealth from the drug trade, Ramon had a gun that was encrusted with gold.
10. Manuel Antonio Noriega Moreno
Now this guy seriously needs a TV series about his life. It would be full of politics, drugs, and jail time. Manuel Antonio Noriega Moreno served as the dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1989. He was also involved in the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the 1950s, where he helped in the affairs of outing criminals with illegal firearms, weapons, and military equipment. And yet, Noriega Moreno was also one of the biggest cocaine traffickers out there. In fact, the CIA was aware of this for years, but they kept Noriega Moreno on their side because of his useful tactics within Latin America. It wasn’t until 1988 that the United States detained him for drug trafficking and money laundering, among other charges. He was sentenced to 40 years in jail during a trial in 1992 (it was then lowered to 30 years, then 17 for good conduct in prison). Now in his 80s, Noriega Moreno has dealt with life in prison, strokes and confinement to a wheelchair.
9. Jesus Labra Aviles
Ranking in the top tier of the Tijuana drug cartel, Jesus Labra Aviles spent years mastering the tactics and action plans of drug trafficking and smuggling. He had a history of working in business before turning to a life of drug-related crime, so he was one of the best at handling transactions – and ensuring that they got done. In 2000, he was arrested and detained by the United States government. In October 2009, he pled guilty to drug smuggling and to aiding another drug lord, Arellano Felix, with smuggling hundreds of tons of cocaine and marijuana into the U.S. He had also paid bribes to the Mexican government, sums that totaled millions of dollars. He was 62 years old when he was sentenced to 25 years behind bars for his drug conspiracy charges. Many others in the drug trade referred to Labra Aviles for connections and associations in the business.
8. Rafael Caro Quintero
Now at age 63, Rafael Caro Quintero has been involved in the Mexican drug trade for decades. He founded the Guadalajara Cartel (it has since been disbanded) and he was involved in the kidnapping and murder of a United States Drug Enforcement Administration agent. Quintero hid out in Costa Rica for a time, but was arrested and detained to Mexico. He was sentenced to 40 years behind bars, but was released in August of 2013. Apparently he had been tried improperly. If you ask us, we would appreciate a kidnapper, murderer and drug lord to be locked up forever. Besides the murder of a DEA agent, Quintero is also linked to the murders of two Americans were captured, tortured, and killed after being mistaken for undercover police officers from the U.S. In July 2016, Quintero was interviewed by Proceso, in which he denied any involvement in the DEA agent’s death.
7. Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez
Also known as Cos, Costi, El Coss, George XX, and Sombra (which means shadow – in fact, only two public pictures of this guy exist), Costilla Sanchez was one of the top leaders of the Gulf Cartel. He was a police officer in Matamoros before switching gears in the late 1990s. Since then, the 45-year-old has made it to the most-wanted list of drug lords in Mexico. In September of 2012, Costilla Sanchez was arrested by Mexican marines; 10 of his own bodyguards were also detained. As of right now, Costilla Sanchez is still behind bars at the Mexican Intelligence Agency (SIEDO)’s compound. In September of 2015, Costilla Sanchez was extradited to the United States and declared himself not guilty the following month. His bounty from the Mexican government totaled over $2 million for information leading to his arrest. The United States government was offering $5 million for info leading to his arrest.
6. Haji Bashar
Let’s take a break from Mexico and turn to the Middle East. Haji Bashar is known in Afghanistan as a drug lord who is armed and dangerous. In fact, Bashar was tied to Osama bin Laden, although he also has a history of partnering with anti-terrorism efforts in the United States and Afghanistan. As for the drug trade, Bashar’s big ticket items were heroin and opium. He is such a conflicted character because he helped the United States’ “War on Terror” and even assisted in uncovering terrorist firearms for the U.S. Yet he was also a huge figure in the drug trade and he eventually found himself behind bars at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. This was after he surrendered during a United States invasion of Taliban vehicles. So Bashar is an interesting case because he was one part ally and one part enemy. His story would make a good TV program.
5. Curtis “Cocky” Warren
How about the United Kingdom, where Britain’s Curtis Francis Warren (also known as “Cocky”) has made a name for himself as a huge English drug lord? Formerly known as Interpol’s Target One, Warren has had an up and down history with the government. He has been found with hundreds of thousands of dollars, copious amounts of drugs, firearms, and a hefty reputation. He has been arrested in the Netherlands and Britain after fleeing to places all over the world, including France and Venezuela. When Warren was imprisoned at a jail in 1999, he was charged with beating a fellow inmate, Cemal Guclu so hard that he died. In 2009, Warren was sentenced to 13 years in jail for smuggling cannabis, and in 2013 he had to pay millions of dollars for a confiscation order so that he could avoid another decade behind bars. However, he lost his appeal and is still imprisoned.
4. Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera
Also widely known as “El Chapo”, Guzman Loera is perhaps the most well-known drug cartel leader in history. His exact date of birth is unknown (he is either 59 or 61 years old) and he is known as “El Chapo” or shorty because of his height (he is 5-foot, 6-inches). Guzman was one of Forbes magazine’s Most Powerful People for three consecutive years from 2009 to 2011. His net worth is nearly $1 billion and he was named Public Enemy Number One by the Chicago Crime Commission. He leads the Sinaloa Cartel, which is known for trafficking cocaine from Colombia to the United States and Mexico, more than 500 tons to date. Guzman’s first capture was in 1993, but he got out by bribing guards. In 2014 he was captured again, but escaped in July 2015. In January 2016 he was captured yet again by the Mexican Navy. An extradition process to the U.S. was launched, but could take up to 6 years to complete.
3. Juma Khan
Linked to the drug trade in Afghanistan as well as the Taliban, Juma Khan is an extremely dangerous man. Highly religious yet illiterate, Juma Khan overtook the village of Baramcha to make it his drug headquarters. He is prolific in the heroin and opium trades and even operated the drug rings for the Taliban at one point (the money was used to buy weapons for the Taliban). He was arrested in 2008 and taken to New York and is awaiting a plea bargain. It turned out that Juma Khan had been an insider informant for the United States and he had leaked information about the Taliban and other drug traffickers in the past. He is another example of ally and enemy. This was not the first arrest of Juma Khan by United States officials. In 2001 he was arrested after an invasion of the Taliban, and although officials knew Juma Khan was involved in the drug trade, they let him go.
2. Angie Sanclemente Valencia
Known as the “Queen of Cocaine,” Angie was a former beauty pageant winner in Colombia before turning over her life to drugs and crime. She previously dated the drug lord known as “The Monster,” but she has since gone on to become his rival in the drug trade. Angie recruits other models to do her bidding to smuggle cocaine from Argentina to England.
Angie was outed when one of her traffickers was arrested at an airport along with a suitcase full of drugs at the end of 2009. Angie was found and arrested in May of 2010 and was thrown into jail. She was sentenced to 6 ½ years, but only served half that sentence. In September 2013 she was released and she moved back to her native Colombia and was banned from visiting Argentina ever again. In a CNN message, Angie expressed deep regret over her actions, but denied the procedure involving the trafficker at the airport.
1. Juan Garcia Abrego
At 72 years of age, Juan Garcia Abrego was the protege of Juan Nepomuceno Guerra (member of the Gulf Cartel). Abrego’s crimes date back to the 1970s while trafficking marijuana from Mexico to the southern United States. He worked closely with the Cali Cartel and became a huge target for the U.S. DEA, which estimated that Abrego was raking in some $10 billion a year. In 1995, he was placed on the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted List – the first drug trafficker to make the list. In 1996 he was arrested in Monterrey, convicted of 22 counts, and sentenced to 11 life terms. Right now he is imprisoned at ADX Florence, an American correctional facility in Colorado. Abrego had several children with his two common-law wives and various lovers. He will spend the rest of his life in jail and will always be known as one of the biggest drug kingpins in the world.