Crime does not pay, or so they say. While some mobsters may have gotten away with it, most still are arrested, brought to trial, imprisoned or killed. But certainly, they got to enjoy the fruits of their labor before they were brought to justice.
Here is a list of the top 10 richest mobsters in the world in terms of actual amount earned during their lifetimes.
10. Frank Lucas – $52 million
Frank Lucas saw the potential of the heroin business when he got back from Vietnam. Using his contacts there, he managed to ship in loads of heroin from Southeast Asia regularly. He was already starting to earn some money, but he realized he could bring home more if only he could bypass the Sicilian Mafia that controlled the trade in Harlem at that time. Employing only trusted members of his family while keeping a low profile, he eventually took control of the entire heroin business in New York and New Jersey. During the peak days of his business, he was selling as much as a million dollars worth of heroin per day.
9. Al Capone – $100 million
His name is synonymous to the gangster life of the 1920s and 1930s. It was the height of the Great Depression and Prohibition was in full effect. Of course, that meant a lot of money and potential earnings for those who did not necessarily follow the law. Al Capone controlled all the illegal alcohol in the city of Chicago, as well as its prostitution dens and gambling rackets. High government officials and civil servants were under his payroll, including police officers, judges and City Hall. He was not able to buy off the Internal Revenue Service, however. The government agency got him for tax evasion and he spent the next 11 years in prison.
8. Joseph Kennedy – $300 million
One would probably never imagine that the closest equivalent to a royal family in America be considered a mobster. Indeed, Joseph Kennedy did not start out that way. He was already in the lucrative alcohol business earning legal money when the Great Depression set in. Along with it came Prohibition and suddenly, his liquor business was in danger of closing down. Kennedy then reportedly contacted underworld elements in New York and Chicago and became a bootlegger. After Prohibition ended, Kennedy continued to earn tons of legitimate money from the business. His ties paid off years later as the Mafia reportedly had a hand in Kennedy’s win in Chicago that helped him seal the close presidential election of 1960.
7. Griselda Blanco – $500 million
Griselda Blanco is known as The Black Widow. No, not the same Black Widow that was portrayed by Scarlett Johansson in “The Avenger.” A more apt description should be Cocaine Queen of Miami. Blanco was a drug lord who got her supply from the Medellin cartel of Columbia. She was known to have no qualms using violence and intimidation to get what she wanted. During her peak, she was earning around $80 million each month. She got arrested and spent 10 years in prison before she was sent back to her native country.
6. Meyer Lansky – $600 million
Meyer Lansky was a member of the Jewish mob but who had a strong influence with the Italian Mafia. He was known as the “Mob’s Accountant” and was pivotal in the development of the National Crime Syndicate along with Charles Luciano, also known as Lucky Luciano. Lansky helped establish a gambling empire from New York and Miami to Iowa and Las Vegas. He also helped establish the mob’s gambling operations in Cuba during the 1950s.
5. Anthony Salerno – $1 billion
Just when African Americans and Latin mobsters were starting to dominate the streets of New York, specifically Harlem, in the 1960s, Anthony Salerno re-established the Italian mob’s foothold in the area. Also known as Fat Tony, Salerno earned millions of dollars running a numbers ring and drug racket in the neighborhood. By the mid 80s, he was already the front man of the Genovese crime family. He was considered the top gangster in the country and had the money and influence to back it up. In 1988 however, the screws started turning and Salerno was convicted of racketeering and sent to prison for 70 years.
4. Carlos Lehder – $2.7 billion
Carlos Lehder helped establish the Medellin drug cartel. He had met George Jung in prison and the two collaborated to import and distribute cocaine to the United States. The business was so lucrative that it made Lehder a billionaire more than twice over. He was even able to purchase his own private island in the Bahamas. He also earned enough money to offer the Columbian government a complete payment of the national debt. Lehder was sent back to the US and was sentenced to life.
3. Joaquin Guzman Loera – $5 billion
Joaquin Guzman Loera is also known as El Chapo. He heads the Sinaloa cartel that smuggles in cocaine from Columbia to the United States through Mexico. He was actually already captured in 1993 in Guatemala and extradited to Mexico where he was sent to prison. Eight years later, he escaped in an elaborate plan that cost him $2.5 million. He has since avoided the long arms of the law. The United States consider El Chapo as the most powerful drug trafficker in the world today.
2. Pablo Escobar – $25 billion
Pablo Escobar was one of the most infamous drug lords in the world. He was the man behind the Medellin cartel of Columbia. He was responsible for billions of dollars of cocaine distributed in the US. He bribed public officials and killed those who rejected his bribe offers. After he escaped from prison in 1993, Columbian forces finally killed him during the manhunt operation.
1. Amado Carrillo Fuentes – $25 billion
Amado Fuentes was the “Lord of the Skies” after he bought 22 private jets to bring in cocaine from Columbia to Mexico for smuggling north of the border. He headed the powerful Juarez cartel in Mexico. In 1997, he underwent plastic surgery to help alter his appearance to avoid law enforcers. He died during the operation.