10 Millionaire Criminals Who Bought Their Freedom

Money may not buy happiness, but it can certainly buy freedom. It’s amazing what a legal defense team can pull off with a hefty deposit at their disposal. When there’s millions of dollars up for grabs, what would otherwise be an open case, can quite easily move in the opposite direction and leave notorious criminals free to roam the streets.

With riches and power come benefits that far exceed financial gain: the right to always be free and live a life without repercussions for past actions. With world class lawyers at the helm, one can literally get away with murder.

Whether it’s celebrity status, shady behind the scenes deals, or simply good luck, these 10 millionaires have managed to escape justice for atrocities that -- in most circumstances -- are simply unforgivable. While some have suffered, living their lives in the shadow of their crime, others have managed to prosper in the wake of their offense. It’s a backwards world we live in where it’s one rule for the common man, and another for the wealthy.

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10 Robert Blake


In May 2001, actor Robert Blake took his wife Bonnie Lee Bakely, out for an Italian dinner. Afterwards, while parked on the side of the street, Bonnie received a fatal gunshot wound to the head. Blake claimed that he re-entered the restaurant to collect a gun that he had left behind when the event occurred. In the coming years, two of his previous stuntmen alleged that Blake had tried to hire them to assassinate his wife. While there wasn't enough evidence to convict, even his three children are convinced that he was involved and filed a civil lawsuit against him, which reduced his fortune by a whopping $30 million. Although he filed for bankruptcy in 2010, he currently has a net worth of approximately $1.1 million.

9 Duane Chapman (Dog the Bounty Hunter)

Before he was a Bible worshiping bail bondsman, Duane Chapman (Dog the Bounty Hunter) was convicted of first degree murder after an altercation with a pimp/drug dealer that left him dead. While in prison Chapman tackled an inmate who was trying to escape, saving him from being shot. This event inspired him to change his ways and pursue a path of righteousness. After serving his time he became a bail bondsman and media personality, eventually amassing a net worth of over $6 million. His big break came after he caught Andrew Luster, who was on the run after being charged with 86 counts of sexual assault. This was the turning point in his career that spawned his own television series.

8 Leroy "Nicky" Barnes


In the mid-70s, Leroy "Nicky" Barnes was one of the most notorious heroin and cocaine dealers in the world from peddling in excess of $1 million worth of narcotics each month. His New York-based criminal organization, The Council, controlled Harlem’s drug trade after American Gangster, Frank Lucas was arrested. Barnes was smug about his exploits from the beginning, agreeing to pose for the cover of the New York Times, who subsequently gave him the nickname “Mr. Untouchable.” This caught the attention of President Jimmy Carter, who ordered the attorney general to “Prosecute Barnes to the fullest extent of the law.” While in prison he found out that a member of The Council was sleeping with his mistress, so he became an informant in retaliation. Although he implicated himself in eight murders, his sentenced was reduced and he was released in 1998 after serving more than 30 years. At the age of 81, Barnes is now a law-abiding citizen with a hefty retirement fund.

7 John Gordon Abbot


Dubbed ”The Millionaire Murderer”, John Gordon Abbot is a criminal genius that was linked to the CIA and partook in a number of bank robberies. He is currently a prime suspect -- along with two other men -- for the murder of San Francisco-based actress Valerie McDonald. After being released from prison for another unrelated crime, he fled from Canada to his birth country of England. From there his trail went cold. Decades later, Investigate Magazine discovered that he was living in New Zealand, along with millions of dollars worth of property, which he had paid for in cash -- the exact figure is unknown. When word got out he fled to Australia and subsequently returned to England. He is still at large.

6 Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. (Snoop Dogg)


Recording artist and actor, Snoop Dogg was involved in the shooting of Phillip Woldermarian in 1993. While he didn't pull the trigger, he was driving the getaway vehicle and evaded the police for a week before turning himself in. Witnesses state that Snoop's bodyguard, McKinley Lee, startled the victim, which prompted him to reach for (what was believed to be) a gun. Lee killed Woldermarian with a single shot, claiming self defense. Due to various mishaps involving the destruction and tampering of evidence, the highly publicized case dragged on for three years. Snoop was eventually acquitted with the help of famed defense attorney Johnnie Cochran. The event solidified Snoop's gangbanger persona and actually enhanced his career, helping him amass his $135 million fortune.

5 Donald “Don” King


4 Issei Sagawa


In 1981, Japanese exchange student Issei Sagawa, murdered, sexually assaulted and cannibalized a Dutch woman named Renee Hartevelt while living in Paris, France. After his capture he was deemed unfit for trial and spent two years living in a psychiatric hospital. During this time his wealthy father hired a top defense lawyer with close connections to the French government. Sagawa was subsequently deported back to Japan, and because the case never went to trial, he was a free man. In the coming years, Sagawa became a minor celebrity, working in various parts of the entertainment sector, including film, television and fetish p****graphy. He also authored 19 books about the crime, some of which were Japanese bestsellers, making him more than $1 million in the 80s.

3 Michael Skakel


Sometimes freedom is in the family name. Michael Christopher Skakel is the nephew of senator Robert F. Kennedy, and grandchild of George Skakel, founder of Great Lakes Carbon Corporation -- one of the wealthiest companies in the United States. Throughout the years Michael Skakel had his fair share of problems with the law, most of which involved drinking and driving. However, in 2000 he was arrested for a far more serious crime: the murder of Martha Moxley. Skakel has always maintained his innocence despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. With the help of his powerful family, in 2013 he was released on a $1.3 million bond and is now a (partially) free man.

2 Aribert Heim (Dr. Death)


Aribert Heim was born in 1914 and is believed to have been hiding in Argentina since World War Two. While working at Mauthusen Concentration Camp, Heim tortured and killed hundreds of Jews, earning him the nickname "Dr. Death." His horrific crimes included injecting prisoners with chemicals that had no medical relevance, and dismembering bodies while the victims were still alive. After the war he moved to Baden-Baden and amassed a fortune of over $2 million running his own gynecologist clinic and investing in real estate. His family and lawyer claim that he passed away in Cairo in 1992, under the assumed identity Tarek Hussein Farid; however, in 2001 his lawyer requested a refund of capital gains taxes from German financial authorities stating Heim was living abroad. Even today (2015) he is one of the top 10 most wanted Nazi war criminals.

1 Robert Durst


Robert Durst, the wealthy heir to a $100 million New York real estate fortune -- which includes office buildings in Times Square -- is the prime suspect in at least three murder cases, including that of his missing (presumed dead) wife, Kathie Durst. His story was covered extensively in Andrew Jareki's HBO documentary series The Jinx, which uncovered new evidence linking him to the murder of his best friend, writer Susan Burman. So why is he free? All of the evidence is circumstantial. While he openly admitted in a 2003 trial to dismembering the body of his neighbor Morris Black, and disposing his remains in the Galveston Bay, he claims that the death occurred after an altercation in his apartment and that he acted in self defense, leading the prosecutors in the awkward position of having to disprove his claims.

Sources: Biography, Heavy, Vice, History Channel, LA Times

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