Celebrities make the same stupid choices and mistakes the rest of us do. A lot of celebrities have committed crimes like drinking while driving, soliciting prostitutes, and doing illegal drugs. And some celebrities have committed really serious offenses such as murder or (allegedly) raping dozens of women in the United States. These crimes, though, are generally the product of terrible or ill-informed choices made by the celebrity in question. Some celebrities link themselves to an entirely different type of criminal element however.
Organized crime is, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a $1 trillion a year enterprise. Criminal empires encompass much of the globe, entangling the United States and every other country with their machinations. The FBI classifies organized crime as not only the stereotypical Mafia, made famous in the United States by crime bosses like Al Capone and Carlo Gambino, but also Asian criminal groups like the Triad, Russian gangs who emigrated when their countries economy shifted after the Cold War, and drug and slave traffickers from African nations like Nigeria. I am defining organized crime as any group of people who commit crimes for a planned reason, usually with a boss figure pulling the strings.
Celebrities get wrapped up in organized crimes due to the amount of money they are surrounded by and all the temptations that amount of money can bring. In this list we will look at 12 celebrities who have actively (as in of their own volition) or passively (as in they have been victimized) been involved with organized crime. This does not make the celebrity a bad person necessarily, but in some cases a victim of circumstance. Here are twelve celebrities involved in twelve different types of organized criminal enterprises.
12. Woodrow Wilson – Ku Klux Krazy
Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States, and his policies involving World War I made him an international celebrity, as he not only engaged the United States into action during the war but also helped end the war by pushing for the creation of the League of Nations. Wilson won the Nobel peace prize, and made a lot of positive changes for the country’s citizens, especially Jewish and female citizens.
But he was also allegedly involved in the organized, white supremacist criminal group known as the Ku Klux Klan. I’m sure Wilson did not consider the Klan’s violence and terror toward African Americans criminal, but it’s hard to understand how such blatant violation of American legal freedoms could not be classified as such. Wilson’s involvement with the Klan proves that even the best people can suffer from the disease of ignorance.
11. Lil Wayne – “Blood” Runs Deep In His Veins
The Bloods gang was created to compete against the Crips gang, which was dominating organized crime in Los Angeles. They are known for their hatred of Crips, bad grammar, and wearing red. Lil Wayne is a prominent rapper who identifies with the Bloods. Lil Wayne, whose real name is Dwayne Carter Jr., has been rapping since he was actually “lil” and has a lot of critical acclaim and a Grammy to show for his hard work and dedication to craft.
However, he makes a lot of bad life decisions, such as allegedly selling drugs and playing with guns. He identifies with the Bloods gang in his music and wears a lot of red. Some dispute how strong his gang affiliation is, but supporting an organized gang to however many thousands of kids look up to him as inspiration makes him just as culpable as the actual Bloods.
10. Wiz Khalifa – Blue Blooded Crip
The Crips were created in LA back in the 1960s, and are still a major, organized gang presence in the United States. They are known for extreme violence, poor grammar, and wearing blue. Wiz Khalifa is one prominent rapper who seems to be a member of the Crips.
Khalifa’s real name is Cameron Thomaz, and in the last several years, since his senior year of high school in fact, he has been releasing album after album to critical acclaim. Khalifa dresses in Crip gear and misspells his track titles with the letter “C”, a definite part of Crip nomenclature.
9. Mark Wahlberg – Green Blooded Gang Violence
Mark Wahlberg‘s movies have made a lot of money, with the Ted series and Transformers Age of Extinction being recent box office hits. Even though the quality of those films could be debated, Wahlberg is a legit movie star. But before acting, modeling, and rapping, Wahlberg made some bad choices in his life. He was involved in organized crime as a teenager growing up in Dorchester, Massachusetts and committed a number of crimes involving drug trafficking and theft. The worst crime by far was severely assaulting a man, which led to him spending over a month in jail. Wahlberg was able to turn his life around and leave the gang life behind, a decision that benefited him and his entire family.
8. Joe Namath – Mafia Man Cave
Joe Namath is maybe the most important quarterback the New York Jets football team has ever had. Broadway Joe led the Jets to victory in Superbowl 3 in 1969, also winning MVP for that game and eventually being voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985. Namath has pursued other interests since he retired from football, including small movie roles, a lot of television work, and yes, even a bit of Broadway.
However, Namath’s connection to organized crime came from another business venture: nightclub owner. In the late 1960s, Nameth was the part owner of a nightclub called Bachelors III. Bachelors III became a very popular hang out for the Mob, specifically the Gambino crime family, who used the club as their own public man cave. How closely Namath was connected to the mob was unknown, but the AFL pro football league assumed the worst. Namath even retired from football temporarily over the scandal. Ultimately, Namath got out of the club business and returned to football.
7. Dino Bravo – Canadian Black Market
Pro Wrestler Adolfo Bresciano, better known as Dino Bravo, was heavily identified with Canada. Called “Canada’s Strongest Man,” I remember watching Bravo battle the Ultimate Warrior for the Intercontinental belt when I was kid, Bravo decked out in his Canadian Fleur-de-Lis. Bravo was a former WWF tag team champion and WWF Canadian champion, but never made a huge impact in the WWE like Bret Hart or Hulk Hogan.
In Canada, he was allegedly involved in the black market cigarette trade. His uncle was a mob boss in Canada, which may have accounted for Bravo’s connection to organized crime. Bravo’s story doesn’t end well, as he was brutally gunned down by an unknown party in 1993.
6. Edward James Olmos – Targeted by Mexican Mafia
Edward James Olmos is one of the most widely acclaimed Latino actors in the United States, having won two Golden Globes and an Emmy, and having been nominated for an Oscar for his movie Stand and Deliver. Olmos is also an important activist for Latino issues in America, traveling to colleges across the country and speaking about Latino rights.
It’s amazing to think this great man would have enemies, but a movie he made in 1992 called American Me gathered quite a lot of them. The movie paints an unflattering portrayal of a Mexican mob boss, so the group in question put a bounty on Olmos’s head. They wanted the actor to pay for the disrespect shown to them by the film, but Olmos seemingly came to an agreement with the group, because they rescinded the bounty before Olmos lost his life.
5. Ronald Reagan – Contra Guerillas
Ronald Reagan was a respected actor in the 1930s and 1940s, making dozens of films and later serving as President of the Screen Actors Guild. He also appeared on TV for a short period of time, but of course is most remembered as the 40th President of the United States. Reagan is revered by present day Conservatives, and thought of nostalgically by movie fans in the golden age of Hollywood, but remember when he sold guns to the worst people on Earth?
Reagan, as President, allegedly sold weapons to terrorist groups in Iran and then used the money to help finance organized crime in Nicaragua. The Contra Guerillas, an organized criminal (terrorist) organization dedicated to the overthrow of Nicaragua’s government of the time, were terrible people, who raped, murdered, and destroyed everyone in their path. Granted, the actual government of Nicaragua was not much better, but Reagan helping the Contras was a major scandal back in the day.
4. Jackie Chan – Targeted By The Triad
The Chinese Triad criminal organization dominates drug and human trafficking throughout China and other parts of Asia. They attempt to extort and make money whenever they can, from as many innocent people as they can. They have even attempted to manipulate Chinese cinema, but one actor has, in the past, stood up against them. Jackie Chan began his career as a stuntman for Bruce Lee, but since then has become more and more successful; his name being synonymous with martial arts films in the United States and films in general in Asia.
Chan refused to bow to organized crime, so the Triad began targeting him for vengeance. So far, Chan has managed to stay ahead of the gangs and hopefully can continue to be safe from their machinations.
3. M.I.A. – Tamil Tigers
The Tamil Tiger group in Sri Lanka consider themselves revolutionaries, trying to keep their freedom and give their people independence from their evil government. However, the Tamil Tigers are technically an organized criminal group due to the crimes they commit in Sri Lanka to fund their operations.
Pop Singer M.I.A., whose real name is Mathangi Arulpragasam, has been a vocal supporter of the Tamil Tigers, as she is from Sri Lanka. His single ‘Paper Planes’ was a major hit in the United States, and the singer has earned a lot of accolades from her other albums, but the United States has kept their eye on her for her activism. It’s easy to see why she lends support to her people, but at the same time, the Tigers should have made some more ethical choices over the years to achieve their goals.
2. Hakeem Olajuwon – Al-Qaeda Oopsy
Hakeem Olajuwon played pro basketball for the Houston Rockets for almost two decades. During that time Hakeem won two championships and a MVP award, making him a hero in Houston specifically and Texas generally. A devout Muslim, Hakeem decided to use his paycheck to give back to the Muslim community, a really wonderful act of charity, but the “Dream’s” dream became a nightmare when he discovered he had accidentally been funding al-Qaeda.
These things happen I suppose, but realizing you have been helping an organized empire of terrorists, who perverted the Quran and killed thousands of Muslims monthly, has got to be devastating. Hopefully Olajuwon has been able to move past this incident.
1. Woody Harrelson – Contract Killing
Woody Harrelson got his big break on the sitcom Cheers, about a bar where everybody knows your name. But if Woody Harrelson’s dad Charles knew your name you were in real danger. Charles Harrelson was a hitman, who killed several men on behalf of the mob. The most famous of Charles’ victims was Judge John H. Wood; although Charles also, at one point, claimed to have killed John F. Kennedy.
Charles was arrested and died in prison, and luckily never had a very close relationship to his son. I’m sure that Woody Harrelson was actually better off without this dangerous man in his life, although as a kid it must have been terrible for him. At least he has had an amazing career to keep him inspired.