We always tend to hear a lot about male gangsters, ruthless men with a thirst for violence and criminal activities. Guys in sharp suits and dripping in gold who have a crew of lots of muscle behind them, accumulating their wealth by illegal means and hoarding it all in their luxury mansions. That’s the stereotypical image of a gangster, and it actually holds true for a lot of them. Women, well, we don’t really get to hear about them, they’re not really thought about in the same way. You see a woman being arrested, brought into a courtroom, being accused of heinous acts, and all she needs to do is flutter her eyes and people will sympathize. People won’t think she’s capable of such crimes. Ok, so that won’t really happen, but subconsciously, for a lot of people anyway, that might be the case.
There’s actually a pretty simple reason as to why we mostly hear about male gangsters, crime bosses and their criminal activities. That’s because most gangsters are men. The crime world’s often perceived to be a macho boy’s club, and if women are involved, they’re only there to do the donkey work. Well, that’s not really the case anymore. Over the years, there have been some seriously tough, violent, vindictive women who’ve been involved in some truly heinous crimes. The 15 on this list are all gangsters, and at one time or another, gained seriously nasty reputations due to the crimes they committed. These are 15 of the most notorious female gangsters in history.
15. Bonnie Parker – One Half Of The Infamous Bonnie And Clyde Duo
This woman’s probably the most famous – well, infamous – female gangster who’s ever lived. She’s long gone now, but tales of her criminal ways still get spoken about to this day. They’ve become the subject of books and films, and her crimes were so daring, they captured people’s imaginations, and still do.
From 1932 to mid-1934, Bonnie Parker was involved with the gang, the Barrow Gang. Also a member was Bonnie’s love interest, Clyde Barrow. During the Great Depression, they travelled across Central America, committing robberies, mainly bank robberies, and killing anyone who tried to get in their way. They’re believed to have killed at least nine police officers, and a whole host of others who tried to stop them getting what they wanted. The numerous legends about the gang and the duo’s life have been dramatized, but still a whole lot of it holds true. It makes the two possibly the most dangerous, most infamous criminal duo in history, and certainly makes Bonnie one of the most notorious gangsters who’s ever lived.
14. Sandra Ávila Beltrán – “The Queen Of The Pacific”
Quite a few women on this list have been dubbed the “queen” of something. It’s an apt name, considering they rule over the dark and shady goings on of the criminal world. Sandra’s a Mexican drug cartel leader. She was bathing in riches, but to outsiders, she was living an unassuming existence as a housewife. This persona she was trying to portray lasted for a pretty long time. The leader of a drug cartel didn’t raise any suspicion, she wasn’t even known to the police. But that ended when her son was kidnapped, held for ransom, and she had to seek the help of the authorities. They helped, but also looked into her and discovered that there was more to this supposed housewife than meets the eye. How did she evade capture and manage to continue orchestrating her criminal activities for so long? She’s a seductress, has many drug traffickers, and is thought to have had many law enforcement officers, in her back pocket. But let her beauty and charming ways fool you at your peril, as many have found out.
13. Charmaine Roman – Money Laundering On An Epic Scale
A bit of a stereotype here, but you don’t really expect a grandmother to be a gangster. Charmaine Roman wasn’t just a gangster, she was her gang’s kingpin.
Living out in Florida, in 2013, Charmaine was arrested because of her suspected involvement in a Jamaican drug trafficking ring. But authorities soon discovered that she was far more than “just involved.”
Charmaine lived a life of luxury in Florida. Nothing out of the ordinary there, a lot of its population does. But Charmaine wasn’t earning her cash by conventional means. She was a gambler, and a pretty good one at that. In fact, she was pretty good with cash, which is why she laundered tons through a Las Vegas casino, and was in charge of the books for a multimillion dollar Jamaican marijuana trafficking gang.
She was eventually arrested as part of a major sting operation. It was found she’d been living in the U.S. illegally for the past 20 years, and when she was nabbed, police weren’t even sure of her identity due to the number of fake IDs she had on her. But that was to be the least of her troubles.
12. Raffaella D’Alterio – Taking Over From Her Husband
Think of the mafia and you don’t really think of women heading up certain branches of their sophisticated organization. Again, from what we’ve seen in the media, in movies, it’s the men in expensive suits, with chains and slicked back hair – greaseballs – who do all the work, while the women are homemakers. That’s far from reality. In Naples, Italy, the Pianese-D’Alterio family were a pretty big deal. They ran drug operations throughout Italy, and it was headed by Raffaella’s husband. But when he was assassinated in 2006, she stepped over to the life of crime and started running things herself. She became a feared gangster, and managed to survive several attempts on her life. She got through all of that, but couldn’t escape the authorities that were breathing down her neck. Her criminal activities eventually caught up with her, and she was taken down by a major bust, along with several other members of the family, in 2012, on charges relating to drug trafficking, robbery, and a ton of other stuff.
11. Xie Caiping – “The Godmother”
Xie Caiping was a mob boss who ruled the Triad criminal underworld with an iron fist. Xie was a Chinese kingpin – or queenpin – and her criminal activities were wide-ranging. From orchestrating illegal gambling deals to prostitution, Xie was involved in it all, anything that made her cash and funded her lifestyle of luxury. Authorities were shocked when they did some digging and all of this came to light in 2009. Xie resembles a middle-aged matron, not a crime boss – it just goes to show how looks can be deceiving. But she had a fleet of luxury cars, a number of villas, and enjoyed the finer things in life, and this lifestyle meant the authorities had the spotlight firmly fixed on her. It’s also thought that she had a number of government officials and members of the police force in her back pocket – she knew how to get stuff done.
10. Judy Moran – Matriarch Of The Aussie Crime Family
The Moran family is an infamous family that terrorized the streets of Melbourne for decades. They’ve gained notoriety for their orchestration of numerous gangland killings, mainly retribution murders, after the Moran’s suffered many deaths themselves. Judy was married to John “Johnny” Cole, head of the family. He was shot dead in 1982, and their son was murdered in 2000. She married Lewis Moran, their son was killed in 2003, and Lewis was murdered a year later. Then, in 2009, Judy was arrested for the murder of Lewis’ brother, and is currently serving time in jail. In the midst of all of this, the Morans were involved in the usual criminal activities, drugs and whatnot, but it was their ruthless killings that meant they were one of the most feared families Down Under. In all, it’s thought that 30 criminals died, and that they were responsible for one of the biggest underworld feuds in Australia’s gangland history.
9. Jemeker Thompson – “Queen Pin”
Jemeker’s story is pretty spectacular, and she regularly speaks about it, doing talks at events, and she’s got her own biography. It’s been an epic life – not in a good sense – for Jemeker.
Living in L.A., Jemeker was dirt poor. When she was evicted from home at a young age, Jemeker decided she didn’t want to have that life, and was going to do whatever she could to ensure she had money in her pocket. She wanted to escape that life of poverty, and was drawn to the drug trade. It was somewhat of an epidemic at the time, and Jemeker wanted a piece of the action. She, along with her husband, started a cocaine-trafficking business, which then expanded. They began dealing other drugs, widened their operations around The States. By this time, Jemeker’s husband had died, and she was dating someone new. But this new guy was snitching, feeding the authorities information, so Jemeker went on the run. After evading capture for two years, she was arrested in 1993 and spent 13 years in prison. Jemeker came out a reformed character, having found her faith in God, and is now an evangelical minister.
8. Rosetta Cutolo – Head Of An Italian Crime Syndicate
Rosetta Cutolo was a Mafia Godmother who led the Italian Nuova Camorra Organizzata (NCO) crime syndicate. Many have testified that without Rosetta, the NCO would’ve dissolved when its leader, her brother, went behind bars. Raffaele Cutolo still ran things from prison, but it was Rosetta who was always in his ear, who executed his orders and kept everything ticking from the outside. Who’d have thought that Rosetta, a simple woman who lived with her mom and enjoyed tending roses, would become such a feared gangster? Not many, but it was her closeness to her brother that got her involved in his way of life. One thing that Rosetta was known for was numbers. She was brilliant at negotiating deals. But one went sour, and the police were on her tail. She managed to escape, living in safe houses for over a decade, before giving herself up, saying “I am tired of being a fugitive.” Rosetta’s always maintained her innocence.
7. Maria Leon – Spun Her Web Across L.A.
Maria “Chata” Leon is another woman who had a massive piece of the L.A. criminal underworld pie. Her criminal empire included running a drug trafficking ring, and she was also heavily involved in human trafficking.
Maria had ties to the Mexican Mafia, and using these ties, she had wide-ranging operations and basically terrorized northeast Los Angeles for two decades. But it was the gangland killings that made police investigate her further. This violence, for which she and her gang were responsible for, made L.A., at the time, resemble a battleground. Amazingly, she headed these operations while being a mom to no less than 13 children! Once she started to feel the heat, Maria fled to her homeland of Mexico, but when one of her kids died, she returned to the U.S. for the funeral. It was then that she was captured, arrested, and she’s now behind bars, her home for a very long time.
6. Melissa Calderon – One Bloodthirsty Woman
Mexican gangland violence is seriously brutal. To stay true to their own, to protect what’s theirs, to get what they want, or just for the hell of it, gangs will kill, and will think nothing of killing those associated with you too. They often do so in brutal fashion, and will continue killing unless they get what they want. Mexican gangs as a collective group are known for carrying out their activities in this kind of fashion. But even amidst all the gangland violence, one name stands out for being the most violent of them all: Melissa Calderon. She’s one fierce woman, someone who’s been responsible for at least 150 murders in Mexico. She has four titles: a drug trafficker, assassin, an enforcer for the Sinaloa Cartel crime syndicate, and she heads her own gang too. Melissa was a busy woman juggling a lot, before she was relieved of her activities after being arrested in 2015.
5. Claudia Ochoa Felix – Kim Kardashian Of Crime
Ok, so these are mostly rumors that are yet to be substantiated, but they still make Claudia a worthy entrant on this list. Check out Claudia’s Instagram page – yes, she does have an Instagram profile – and at first glance you’d probably think that she’s a socialite of some sort. She’s basically known for her strong social media presence, and for her similarity – looks-wise – to the queen of social media herself, Kim Kardashian. Like Kim K, Claudia leads a flashy life. She often posts pics of herself in luxurious locations, in fancy cars, on yachts, and with weapons – yes weapons, strange things for a classy, elegant woman to get her hands on. Perhaps that’s because she’s head of a Mexican gang called Los Ántrax. I say perhaps, because these are just rumors, rumors that have been gathering momentum over recent years. There are currently no investigations into Claudia and her activities – that we know about – but if the rumors hold true, it’d make Claudia one of the deadliest women on the planet.
4. Maria Licciardi – Rising Through The Ranks
Here’s another Mafia Godmother, someone who ran her operations in Naples before being captured in 2001.
Maria was a small, diminutive woman, but she still had some serious presence about her. That’s why, when her two brothers and husband were arrested, she became the head of the Licciardi clan. When her brother died, the criminal underworld became a very dangerous place – more so than it already was of course – and many attempted to seize control. But Maria stabilized the situation and ensured the Licciardi family were still at the top. What did they do? Basically, they ran many lucrative rackets, including drugs and prostitution. After retaliation killings, the authorities began to investigate Maria. She became one of the “30 most wanted Italians” and is now incarcerated, although it’s still thought that she runs things from behind bars. Apparently, prison isn’t a barrier for Maria or her clan who still want her in charge.
3. Enedina Arellano Félix – First And Only Female Drug Lord
Here’s another Mexican gangster, someone actually deemed to be the first and only female drug lord. That’s a pretty far cry from life as an accountant, which is the life Enedina was living. But she ditched her studies in 2008, taking over the gang’s criminal activities which were once led by her brothers. They had been apprehended, some had been killed, so Enedina saw it as her duty to take over the family business. She used her business-minded approach to run things, looked after the finances, and made lucrative deals with other gangs. The contacts she established is what kept her family, and her gang, afloat during the tough times of unrest.
Other than Sandra Ávila Beltrán, Enedina is thought to be one of only a few women to lead such a prominent crime organization, but her “business-like vision” set her apart. She’s now behind bar though, and her sister is thought to have taken over the Tijuana Cartel.
2. Marllory Chacon Rossell – “Queen Of The South”
Marllory had one fierce reputation. She was once one of the most powerful people in the world of Latin gangs, and exerted her control over Central America, where she was in control of a drug trafficking ring, and money laundering, but on an epic scale. The main way her and her gang earned their money was by smuggling tons of drugs into The States from Guatemala. But money laundering is what she was really good at, until she was caught of course. She was laundering millions, cash earned from dodgy deals and transactions, and so she needed a front for it all. Marllory started her own privately-run lottery. But it didn’t take long before the United States Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control started poking their noses into her business, and they discovered plenty of dodgy goings on. The Guatemalan socialite and businesswoman’s world soon came crashing down.
1. Pearl Elliott – Madam Of Kokomo
Back in the 1920s and 30s, Pearl Elliot, the Madam of Kokomo, was very well known to authorities. She was always getting into trouble and always getting arrested for this and that, but things came to a head when in 1933, she made the Chicago Police Department’s Public Enemies list, one of only two women on the list. Why? It was discovered that she was in control of a brothel in Indiana, a brothel which she ran for over a decade. She was also involved in various other criminal activities and was associated with other notorious gangsters of that time. She was in tight with bank robber Harry Pierpont, and was involved in the criminal activities of the Dillinger gang, for whom she was a treasurer and fixer. She did various other things for the notorious gang too, and this meant that she was one of the most prominent female gangsters of her time.
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