The 10 Most Successful Gangsters of All Time

 

Who says crime doesn’t pay? If you are willing to take chances and know that you may live a fabulous but somewhat abbreviated existence, you too could be a gangster. As demonstrated by our list there are times crime definitely does pay. These larger than life gangsters lived fabulous lives although for many of them it lasted a relatively short time.

They owned mansions, planes, yachts, jewels, furs, cars and even an island. They had designer clothes, designer drugs and an endless supply of entertainment. Unfortunately with the type of work they dealt in, they had to be extremely careful so certain precautions always had to be taken. Bodyguards, food tasters, armored vehicles, alternate identities and even drastic plastic surgery were also part of their lifestyle. These were just a few of the preventative measures that could be taken for their protection and to keep them on top of the game.

Individuals like these were always targeted by rival gangs; it was a dangerous existence albeit a fantastic one.  Is this why we are so fascinated by gangsters? Our culture reflects the fascination through movies, TV shows and books. Prohibition seemed to spawn a new breed bringing players like Al Capone, and gambling allowing others like Meyer Lansky to rise to the top of the heap. Of course drug trafficking on a grand scale in the modern day ushered in South American drug lords and powerful cartels.

No matter what though, at some point after all the fun, the law does catch up.  Sometimes it takes years but it does happen. Most on this list faced charges of drug conspiracy and tax evasion, not to mention murder. Many spent years on the run avoiding the law, or worse yet, hired assassins. There is definitely a price to pay for this type of life. These gangsters usually came to violent ends or rotted away in jail cells until they died. Let’s take a look at the ten most successful criminals in terms of financial success and how they made their fortunes.

10. Frank Lucas: $52 Million

Born in 1930, in La Grange, North Carolina, Frank Lucas moved to Harlem in 1946. He aspired to be what he termed “Donald Trump rich” and so he calculated a plan after seeing the potential of the heroin business that was largely fed by the Vietnam War at that time. U.S Servicemen were exposed to all sorts of drugs overseas and many came back with raging addictions.

Lucas knew the potential for a huge profit was there if he could obtain the heroin from the source and bypass the Italian mafia that was in control of Harlem at the time. After traveling to Vietnam and setting up contacts and connections there, he was able to ship in tons of heroin from Southeast Asia on a regular basis. He hired only family members and trusted friends and eventually he took control of the heroin trade in New York and New Jersey. Working with Khun Sa, a well-known opium lord, Lucas arranged to have the heroin hidden in coffins that were flown from Vietnam to the U.S.

During the height of his operation he was making approximately a million dollars a day and his net worth was estimated to have been in the neighborhood of $52 million making him number ten on our list of most successful gangsters. Ironically, after serving time, Lucas was said to be sorry for his part in the devastation of Harlem and for the damage he caused so many individuals and families. He spent time attempting to undo some of the damage by working with his daughter’s non-profit organization, Yellow Brick Roads, protecting children of incarcerated parents. In 2007, his life was depicted in the movie American Gangster, starring Denzel Washington.

9. Jose Figueroa Agosto: $100 Million

Jose Figueroa Agosto was born June 28th, 1964 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He is said to have risen in power within his crime family after he killed a driver that had stolen a shipment of cocaine. Even though he was caught and convicted for the murder he managed to escape, walking out of the prison with a fake release order and fleeing to the Dominican Republic.

He made his millions in drug trafficking at some point controlling over 90% of the drug traffic from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico. He successfully eluded the law by creating alternate identities and paying bribes to law enforcement personnel but his luck finally ran out. He was arrested in July of 2010 by DEA, FBI, U.S. Marshals, and the Puerto Rican Police. His fortune was estimated at approximately $100 million making him number nine on our list.

8. Joseph Kennedy: $300 million

Born on September 6th, 1888, in Boston, Massachusetts, Joseph P. Kennedy made his first million by age 30. Already in the liquor business legally he had to take extreme measures when Prohibition started or lose his business, so he contacted mobsters in New York and Chicago and became a successful bootlegger. Even after liquor was made legal again, Kennedy maintained those questionable ties and it’s said to have played a part in helping him control certain political elections.

According to Fortune Magazine in his prime, Kennedy had a net worth of more than $300 million. As father to a U.S. President, a District Attorney and a Senator, you might raise a brow seeing him on our list, but with his known associations with the likes of mobsters such as Frank Costello and Sam Giancana and allegations of influencing unions, fixing elections and his bootlegging stint, he seems right at home as number eight on the list. Joseph Kennedy died November 18th, 1969, outliving all of his sons except for Ted.

7. Meyer Lansky: $600 Million

Meyer Lansky, originally Maier Suchowljansky, was born July 4th, 1902. Lansky was one of the most well-known gangsters of his time. Born a Polish Jew in Russia, he immigrated to the U.S. with his parents in 1911, moving to New York’s Lower East Side.  Partnering with Bugsy Siegel he ran a floating crap game organizing a small gang and moving on to bigger and better things including auto theft, burglary, and liquor smuggling.

He worked under the protection of the Masseria crime family, even moving on to putting together a group of professional assassins. Supposedly it was Lansky who conspired with Lucky Luciano to eventually have Masseria killed in 1931. Lansky joined Luciano from 1932 to 1934 forming a national crime syndicate. Lansky became a major banker in the operation and used international accounts to launder money. His success continued as he moved to developing gambling operations in Cuba, Florida and eventually Las Vegas. It was Lansky that financed his old friend Siegel’s casino in Las Vegas and it was also Lansky that ordered the hit on Siegel when he attempted to steal from the syndicate.

When Cuba became a problem after Fidel Castro rose in power, Lansky turned his attention to the Bahamas, continuing to expand his gambling empire across the ocean. You name it, Lansky was into it, including narcotics, prostitution, pornography, racketeering, extortion, money laundering, etc. He squirreled away his vast holdings in Swiss bank accounts. In his heyday Forbes named him as one of the 400 richest people in the U.S. with a net worth of over $600 million making him number seven on our list. Although he attempted to flee to Israel, Lansky was forced back to the U.S. to face charges but due to his ill health he did not spend much jail time. Most indictments were discharged and he died of lung cancer in Miami at age 83.

6. Al Capone: $1.3 Billion

Alphonse Capone was born on January 17th, 1899, in Brooklyn, New York. He was born into a respectable family, his father was educated and making a living as a barber. Capone grew up living in a Brooklyn tenement near the Navy Yard. Although Capone was very bright he was expelled from Catholic school at age 14 for assaulting a teacher and he never returned. He met gangster Johnny Torrio and was seduced by Torrio’s lifestyle. He joined Torrio’s gang rising quickly and acquiring the scar in a knife fight that earned him the nickname “Scarface”.

He moved to Chicago in 1909 at Torrio’s request to help run operations there and by 1925 when Torrio retired, Capone became the boss of Chicago running the prostitution, gambling and bootlegging rackets there. He was ruthless, always attempting to take out other gangs and increase his territory. He ran the Chicago Mafia making most of his money during the prohibition period including over $60 million monthly from illegal alcohol alone. He was able to live the high life even refusing to carry a gun as a mark of his status, however he rarely traveled with less than two bodyguards and he almost always traveled under the cover of dark.

Capone was involved in probably one of the most infamous gang hits in history; the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. Tired of dealing with his rival, Bugs Moran and his Northsiders gang, Capone ordered the hit for February 14th, 1929, staging it as a raid with the henchmen wearing stolen police uniforms. Unfortunately for Capone, Moran escaped but it was well-known who had attempted the hit. He had just about everyone on his payroll including government officials, judges, police officers and City Hall personnel.

His fortune would have been worth approximately $1.3 billion today landing him the number six spot on our list. Unfortunately the law did catch up with Capone and he was arrested and prosecuted by the Internal Revenue Service for tax evasion. He spent 11 years in prison, serving time in Alcatraz until he became ill and was released early for good behavior. He died on January 25th, 1947 at age 48.

5. Griselda Blanco: $2 Billion

Griselda Blanco, also known as the “The Godmother and The Black Widow,” was born in Colombia on February 15th, 1943. She is suspected of having committed over 200 murders while transporting cocaine from Colombia to the U.S. She was raised by an abusive mother and drifted into prostitution at a young age. Working as a prostitute she became involved with the Medellin Cartel. Working for them, she helped smuggle Colombian cocaine throughout the U.S., even designing special undergarments that could be used to transport large amounts through U.S Customs.

Blanco arrived in New York in the mid 1970’s, a successful drug smuggler running a huge narcotics operation but U.S. law enforcement was on her tail and after intercepting one of her shipments she and more than 30 of her partners were indicted. Afraid she would be captured, Blanco returned to Colombia, but eventually she came back to the U.S. and this time settled in Miami.

She continued working for the Medellin Cartel, acquiring her reputation for murder until she was eventually caught and jailed for drug conspiracy. Upon her release Blanco returned to Colombia where she was gunned down by two hit men on motorcycles at age 69. In her time she was making approximately $80 million a month and during her peak she was worth $2 billion. That makes this dangerous lady gangster number five on our list.

4. Carlos Lehder: $2.7 Billion

Born in Armenia, Colombia, on September 7th, 1949, Carlos Lehder became a founding member of the Medellin Cartel, eventually taking control of an island in the Bahamas and using it to transport cocaine between Colombia and the U.S. He used connections he had made in prison to help him import cocaine and distribute across the United States. A self-proclaimed Nazi, Lehder was eventually run off the island by Professor Richard Novak, a diving enthusiast, hell-bent on keeping his diving paradise pristine.

Once off the island, Lehder attempted to keep the law at bay with threats and payoffs, but eventually he was arrested, extradited to the U.S. and sentenced to 135 years in jail. After agreeing to testify against the Panamanian dictator, Manuel Noriega, Lehder was put into the witness protection program and virtually disappeared. Supposedly he was given a reduced sentence of 55 years and is serving time under another name. At the time of his arrest government officials seized Lehder’s bank accounts and took ownership of his possessions bankrupting the gangster. During his prime through drug trafficking and racketeering Lehder amassed a fortune of over $2.7 billion, making him number four on our list.

3. Joaquin Guzman Loera: $5 Billion

It is believed Joaquin Guzman Loera was born on December 25th, 1954, in Mexico, although his exact birthdate is not known. He grew up the son of a cattle rancher, his family was very poor and he helped by selling fruit when possible to help earn a living. He also learned to grow his own poppies for opium and marijuana to increase the family’s income. His nickname was earned by his short stance; Loera at full height was only 5 feet 6 inches tall earning him the moniker of “El Chapo”, which means “Shorty”.

After his father kicked him from his family home, he went to live with his grandparents and he became associated with the Sinaloa Drug Cartel, overseeing drug trafficking between Mexico and the U.S. The drugs were obtained from Colombia and delivered into Mexico where Loera ran logistics, ensuring their delivery from there into the U.S. and Europe by way of plane, boat, truck, train, or helicopter. When the heads of the cartel were eventually arrested, Loera took control. He added the manufacturing of meth within Mexico as well.

According to Forbes, Loera’s net worth is estimated to be approximately $5 billion.  Although eventually a $5 million dollar reward was offered for his capture, Loera managed to evade the authorities and stay at the top of the FBI’s most wanted list for more than 10 years. He was only recently captured and arrested on February 22nd, 2014 at a resort in Mazatlán, Mexico.

2. Amado Carrillo Fuentes: $25 Billion

Amado Carrillo Fuentes was born December of 1956 in Navolato Sinaloa, Mexico. He was known as the “Lord of the Skies”, earning his nickname utilizing private planes to carry cocaine around the world. He owned a fleet of 27 private jets, most were Boeing 727’s. Flying into mostly municipal airports and airstrips around Mexico, he was able to successfully transport massive amounts of cocaine. Fuentes murdered his former boss, Rafael Aguilar Guajardo, leader of the Juarez Drug Cartel and took over operations.

Under his direction, the cartel flourished and Fuentes became one of the most powerful drug traffickers in the world, shipping tons of cocaine directly to Manhattan monthly.  Married with a family, Fuentes resided in a middle-eastern style home that resembled a fortress called “The Palace of a Thousand and One Nights”. It was finally ordered to be torn down in 2006 by Governor Eduardo Bours. Fuentes lived a far from peaceful existence spending the last ten years of his life mostly on the run from the law.

In 1997, as capture became imminent Fuentes decided to change his appearance and after admittance into a hospital in Mexico City, he died on July 3rd, 1997, while undergoing extensive plastic surgery. The operation lasted over nine hours and it’s unclear as to whether Fuentes had a reaction to a medication or the respirator failed but he died on the table. Strangely enough, three months afterward, the two doctors who had performed the surgery were found dead, buried in concrete tombs. There was evidence torture had taken place. The funeral of Fuentes was considered to be one of the most expensive in all Mexico’s history with thousands in attendance. This gangster, in his prime, was reported to have a net worth of over $25 billion making him number two on our list.

1. Pablo Escobar: $30 Billion

Number one on our list is Pablo Escobar, born December 1st, 1949 in Antioquia, Colombia. He was a founding member of the Medellin Cartel, one of the most powerful drug cartels in all of Colombian history. His ruthless ambition gained him control of over 80% of the cocaine that was smuggled into the U.S. Born into a poor family Escobar started his criminal career early, stealing and selling tombstones. By the 1970’s he began to be involved with cocaine. In partnership with five other illegal business owners he formed the Medellin Cartel, purchasing large amounts of coca paste from Bolivia and Peru and importing it to the U.S.

According to Fortune and Forbes magazines he came in as number seven on their list of the ten richest people on earth. He crafted his position and status carefully sponsoring charity projects and soccer clubs and investing in the right contacts and influential friends. Unfortunately, his ambition brought an early death to many that threatened to get in his way including at least three Colombian presidential candidates, thousands of law enforcement personnel, attorney generals, judges and even journalists brave enough to report the truth. At one point it was said he offered to pay off Colombia’s national debt estimated at $10 billion.

He attempted to lobby for a no-extradition clause and generous amnesty to drug lords if they agreed to give up drug trafficking. This makes sense as by this point he had distanced himself from the trade instead choosing to impose a so called “tax” on those trafficking directly. His fortune was estimated to be over $30 billion earning him the number one spot on our list. He attempted to hide himself in prison to escape assassins but that only lasted a year then he was on the run again. He was finally shot to death by the Colombian police in 1993.

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Great Train Robber they never caught, Retired cabbie took famous heist mystery to grave

A RETIRED London black cab driver was cremated this week – and the key to one of the most enduring mysteries of the last century may have died with him.

Doting grandfather and family man Danny Pembroke was strongly believed to have been the Great Train robber who got away with the 1963 heist.

He may also have been the mystery robber known as Alf Thomas, who police were convinced was responsible for battering train driver Jack Mills.

Was Danny Pembroke the one that got away?

Scotland Yard said they were “certain” that former British soldier Pembroke was one of the gang who held up a Glasgow to Euston mail train at Sears Crossing, near Cheddington, Bucks, and stole £2.6million in bank notes – worth £50million today.

Likewise, Post Office investigators “strongly suspected” him for the robbery. He was questioned and his home searched, but his involvement could never be proved.

The other robbers were caught through fingerprints and forensic evidence linking them to their hideout, Leatherslade Farm, which had not been burned down as planned.

South Londoner Pembroke – whose real name was Dennis Pembroke – drifted into crime after completing his national service aged 20 and was suspected by police to have been a member of a gang known as the South Coast Raiders.

The gang had already held up several trains on the London to Brighton line when they joined up with a team of professional robbers from South West London to carry out the crime of the century.

Pembroke was a close associate of fellow South Coast Raiders Bob Welch and Tommy Wisbey, whom he lived close to on the Elmington Estate in Camberwell.

Welch and Wisbey – two of the last three surviving known robbers – were both convicted of the train robbery and jailed for 30 years.

Pembroke is thought to have been one of two South Coast Raiders who got away with the robbery. The other has never been identified. One of them was given the pseudonym Alf Thomas and strongly suspected by police of coshing train driver Jack Mills.

Train driver Jack Mills following the attack

Train robbery author Chris Pickard said: “From what the robbers have said themselves, the South Coast team were on the East side of the track and the other lot were on the West.

“Once the train stopped the South West London team moved in. Buster Edwards tried to get in the driver’s cab from the East and Gordon Goody went in from the other side and got Jack Mills in a bear hug.

“One of the South Coast Raiders then supposedly went round the front of the train and came in the same side as Goody and hit Mills over the head with an iron bar.

“The robbers have always refused to say who hit the driver, but there have been suggestions that it was one of those who was never caught.”

One of the most senior officers on the train case, DCI Frank Williams, confirmed after his retirement that police suspected the uncaptured robber known as Alf Thomas of battering Jack Mills, but nothing could be proved against him.

Pembroke’s name surfaced as a suspect soon after the robbery and he was put on an unerringly accurate list of names compiled by Scotland Yard CID commander George Hatherill.

The list was produced from information supplied by criminal informants who were seeking favours and a share of the £10,000 reward.

As well as Pembroke it also included another robber to get away with it, Harry Smith. All the other suspects named on Cdr Hatherill’s list were later convicted.

The only one of the captured robbers not to feature on it was the now notorious Ronnie Biggs.

Three weeks after the robbery, the Yard chief said he was satisfied the criminals named to him were the “certain offenders” and later wrote in his autobiography that the information was “substantially accurate.”

Pembroke’s home was searched on September 6, 1963, by Flying Squad officers DCI Williams and Det Sgt Jack Slipper.

Nothing incriminating was found and Pembroke was interviewed and his prints taken before being released.

He was even asked to provide samples of his pubic hair to compare with those found in sleeping bags left at the farm.

Tests proved negative.

One former underworld associate told The Sun: “Danny got away with it because he was very clever and kept his gloves on the whole time they were at the farm.

“The Old Bill were convinced he was involved, but could not charge him because they didn’t have any forensic evidence to link him.”

Detectives inspect coaches following the heist

Soon after being released by police, Pembroke went to the Devon village of Beaford with Welch and three other men, where they are suspected of hiding stolen cash.

Locals became suspicious about them spending £5 notes in pubs, although the parish church vicar reported his most successful harvest festival contributions ever.

Those close to the robbers claim major bribes were given to police by those who got away with it.

Certainly, Danny did not show any overt signs of great wealth after the robbery — unlike Harry Smith, who bought 28 houses, a hotel and drinking club.

Many of the robbers were also ripped off by other criminals for their money.

Intriguingly, Danny featured as a gang member in a fictional book titled The Men Who Robbed The Great Train Robbers, published last year.

But there could well be another explanation for Pembroke’s apparent lack of wealth.

On 3 December 1963, on the day gang driver Roy James was captured, police received an anonymous call telling them to go to a phone box in Southwark, where they found almost £50,000 of train robbery money.

The money is thought to have been left there in a deal with police by the mystery robber known as Alf Thomas, who was suspected of hitting Jack Mills.

Cdr Hatherill later said the motive for the return of the money found in the phone box was unclear but said it had been done by “one about whom extensive inquiries had been made and who was interrogated at length.”

He added: “In spite of our strong suspicions, nothing could be proved against him and so no charge could be brought.

“My belief is that he thought we knew more about him than we did, and thinking things were getting hot, he decided to get rid of the money to avoid being found in possession with it.”

Another interpretation is that the money was intended as a bribe to Flying Squad detectives, who were prevented from keeping the loot by unforeseen circumstances.

Either way, nothing more was ever heard about “Alf Thomas”.

Danny Pembroke in later life

Following the robbery, Pembroke turned his back on crime and lived in quiet obscurity in Chislehurst, Kent, working hard as a cabbie to bring up his five children.

He died aged 79 from a heart attack in his sleep at home on February 28 and was cremated on Tuesday at Kemnal Park Cemetery.

As well as his children, Pembroke leaves behind ten grandchildren and one great grandson. His son Danny Jnr, 55, said his father had never spoken about the Great Train Robbery.

The gas fitter from Sevenoaks, Kent, added: “My dad was a fiercely private man. He didn’t have a mobile phone or a bank account his entire life.

“He had a razor-sharp mind and right up until the day he died he was the most clued-up man I’ve ever known.

“But more than anything he was a family man. He was the last of a dying breed — unbothered by what other people did and just focused on providing for his family.

“I couldn’t fault him. He was a fantastic bloke and friend and a super, kind and loving dad. He was the best man I ever knew.”

Fate of the big three

THREE men became the most infamous members of the train robber gang. Here is what happened to them . . .

Bruce Reynolds

Bruce Reynolds was mastermind behind heist

He was the mastermind of the operation.

After the robbery he hid out in a London safe house for six months then moved to Mexico with his family before settling in Canada.

He secretly returned to England and lived in Torquay where he was arrested.

In 1969 he was sentenced to 25 years and released in 1978. In the 80s he was back in jail on drug charges before being released. He died in his sleep in 2013 aged 81.

Ronnie Biggs

Ronnie Biggs spent many years on the run following the   robbery

 

A close pal of Reynolds, Biggs was recruited to hire a train driver to help move the engine after it was stopped.

But the man he found was only familiar with steam trains.

This led to the coshing of driver Jack Mills, who was forced to move the engine.

Police arrested Biggs after finding his fingerprints at the gang’s safe house.

He was given 30 years but escaped from Wandsworth Prison after 15 months by climbing over a wall.

Biggs fled first to Paris, then to Spain, Australia, Panama and finally Brazil.

He returned to Britain in 2001 after being flown back by The Sun and was sent back to jail.

He was released on compassionate grounds eight years later. Biggs died in 2013, aged 84.

Ronald ‘Buster’ Edwards

'Buster' Edwards was a familiar face at Waterloo station

Edwards was one of several gang members who claimed to have been the one to cosh Jack Mills, but it’s believed he said this for publicity.

After the robbery he fled to Mexico with Reynolds but gave himself up in 1966 after his money ran out.

He was sent to jail before being released early in 1975. He went back to his original job as a florist and opened a stall at Waterloo Station.

Edwards was played by singer Phil Collins in a 1988 film about his life. He battled alcohol and depression and he ended up hanging himself in 1994 at the age of 63.

• The only gang members still thought to be alive are Douglas ‘Gordon’ Goody who lives in Spain but is said to be very ill and Robert Welch, now confined to a wheelchair.

On this day : The 3rd April 1882

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Jesse James is murdered

One of America’s most famous criminals, Jesse James, is shot to death by fellow gang member Bob Ford, who betrayed James for reward money. For 16 years, Jesse and his brother, Frank, committed robberies and murders throughout the Midwest. Detective magazines and pulp novels glamorized the James gang, turning them into mythical Robin Hoods who were driven to crime by unethical landowners and bankers. In reality, Jesse James was a ruthless killer who stole only for himself.

The teenage James brothers joined up with southern guerrilla leaders when the Civil War broke out. Both participated in massacres of settlers and troops affiliated with the North. After the war was over, the quiet farming lifeof the James brothers’ youthno longer seemed enticing, and the two turned to crime. Jesse’s first bank robbery occurred on February 13, 1866, in Liberty, Missouri.

Over the next couple of years, the James brothers became the suspects in several bank robberies throughout western Missouri. However, locals were sympathetic to ex-southern guerrillas and vouched for the brothers. Throughout the late 1860s and early 1870s, the James gang robbed only a couple banks a year, otherwise keeping a low profile.

In 1873, the James ganggot into the train robbery game. During one such robbery, the gang declined to take any money or valuables from southerners. The train robberies brought out the Pinkerton Detective Agency, employed to bring the James gang to justice. However, the Pinkerton operatives’ botched attempt to kill James left a woman and her child injured and elicited public sympathy for Jesse and Frank James.

The James gang suffered a setback in 1876 when they raided the town of Northfield, Minnesota. The Younger brothers, cousins of the James brothers, were shot and wounded during the brazen midday robbery. After running off in a different direction from Jesse and Frank, the Younger brothers were captured by a large posse and later sentenced to life in prison. Jesse and Frank, the only members of the gang to escape successfully, headed to Tennessee to hide out.

After spending a few quiet years farming, Jesse organized a new gang. Charlie and Robert Ford were on the fringe of the new gang, but they disliked Jesse intensely and decided to kill him for the reward money. On April 3, while Jesse’s mother made breakfast, the new gang met to hear Jesse’s plan for the next robbery. When Jesse turned his back to adjust a picture on the wall, Bob Ford shot him several times in the back.

His tombstone reads, “Jesse W. James, Died April 3, 1882, Aged 34 years, 6 months, 28 days, Murdered by a traitor and a coward whose name is not worthy to appear here.”

On this day : The 16th February 1894

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John Wesley Hardin is pardoned

Infamous gunslinger John Wesley Hardin is pardoned after spending 15 years in a Texas prison for murder. Hardin, who was reputed to have shot and killed a man just for snoring, was 41 years old at the time of his release.

Hardin probably killed in excess of 40 people during a six-year stretch beginning in 1868. When he was only 15, Hardin killed an ex-slave in a fight, becoming a wanted fugitive. Two years later, he was arrested for murder in Waco, Texas. Although it was actually one of the few he had not committed, Hardin did not want to run the risk of being convicted and escaped to the town of Abilene.

At that time, Abilene was run by Wild Bill Hickok, who was friendly with Hardin. However, one night Hardin was disturbed by the snoring in an adjacent hotel room and fired two shots through the wall, killing the man. Fearing that not even Wild Bill would stand for such a senseless crime, Hardin moved on again.

On May 26, 1874, Hardin was celebrating his 21st birthday when he got into an altercation with a man who fired the first shot. Hardin fired back and killed the man. A few years later, Hardin was tracked down in Florida and brought to trial. Because it was one of the more defensible shootings on Hardin’s record, he was spared the gallows and given a life sentence. After his pardon, he moved to El Paso and became an attorney. But his past caught up with him, and the following year he was shot in the back as revenge for one of his many murders

The Biggest Art Heist in History Still Remains Unsolved, 25 Years Later !

John Dillinger

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John Dillinger, in full John Herbert Dillinger (born June 28, 1902, or June 22, 1903,Indianapolis, Ind., U.S.—died July 22, 1934, Chicago, Ill.) most famous of all U.S. bank robbers, whose short career of robberies and escapes from June 1933 to July 1934 won media headlines.

Dillinger was born in Indianapolis but spent his adolescence on a farm in nearby Mooresville. He joined the navy in 1923 and he served on the USS Utah but deserted after only a few months. In September 1924, caught in the foiled holdup of a Mooresville grocer, he served much of the next decade (1924–33) in Indiana state prisons. While in prison he learned the craft of bank robbery from tough professionals. Upon parole on May 22, 1933, he turned his knowledge to profit, taking (with one to four confederates) five Indiana and Ohio banks in four months and gaining his first notoriety as a daring, leaping, sharply dressed gunman.

Early Life and Family
dillinger-early-lifeBorn into a middle-class family on June 22, 1903, in Indianapolis, Indiana, Dillinger experienced tragedy at the age of four when his mother died. Shortly thereafter, his father moved the family to a small farm in Mooresville, Indiana; he soon remarried. Dillinger’s father had several children with his new wife, and Dillinger’s upbringing fell mainly to his older sister. Reportedly, Dillinger disliked his stepmother and endured physical punishment from his harsh father. In 1923, Dillinger joined the Navy but grew tired of it quickly, ultimately deserting. He returned to Indiana and told friends and family that he had been discharged. Shortly after his return, he married 17-year-old Beryl Hovius. He was 21 at the time. The marriage lasted a mere two years.

Introduction to Crime
Following the end of his marriage, Dillinger moved to Indianapolis and met Ed Singleton, a former convict, while working at a grocery store. Young and impressionable, Dillinger was taken under Singleton’s wing and accompanied him as he committed his first heist: a botched grocery store hold-up. After fighting with the owner during the robbery and knocking him unconscious, Dillinger fled the scene, thinking the owner was dead. Upon hearing Dillinger’s gun go off during the brawl, Singleton panicked and drove away with the getaway car, stranding Dillinger. With no legal guidance, Dillinger pled guilty and received a 10-year prison sentence. Singleton, also arrested, received just 5 years. Dillinger used his time in jail to strategize and plan his revenge against the justice system. With one year taken off his sentence for good behavior, he was released on parole in 1933, four years after the start of the Great Depression.
While in jail, Dillinger learned from seasoned bank robbers, preparing for a future in crime. Within a week of leaving prison he assembled a gang and began executing plans to send arms to his friends at Indiana State Prison for escape. However, on the day of the planned prison break, September 22, 1933, police, on a tip, raided the old house where Dillinger and his newly choreographed gang had set up residence. Dillinger was arrested again. He was immediately transferred to Allen County Jail in Lima, Ohio. The arrest only proved Dillinger’s loyalty to his friends and they were quick to return the favor. Dressed as police officers, Dillinger’s cronies snuck into the jail and broke him out.

John Dillinger

Bank Robberies
All told, Dillinger racked up more than $300,000 throughout his bank-robbing career. Among the banks he robbed were:

  • July 17, 1933 – Commercial Bank in Daleville, Indiana – $3,500
  • August 4, 1933 – Montpelier National Bank in Montpelier, Indiana – $6,700
  • August 14, 1933 – Bluffton Bank in Bluffton, Ohio – $6,000
  • September 6, 1933 – Massachusetts Avenue State Bank in Indianapolis, Indiana – $21,000
  • October, 23, 1933 – Central Nation Bank and Trust Co. in Greencastle, Indiana – $76,000
  • November 20, 1933 – American Bank and Trust Co. in Racine, Wisconsin – $28,000
  • December 13, 1933 – Unity Trust and Savings Bank in Chicago, Illinois – $8,700
  • January, 15, 1934 – First National Bank in East Chicago, Indiana – $20,000
  • March 6, 1934 – Securities National Bank and Trust Co. in Sioux Falls, South Dakota – $49,500
  • March 13, 1934 – First National Bank in Mason City, Iowa – $52,000
  • June 30, 1934 – Merchants National Bank in South Bend, Indiana – $29,890

The East Chicago robbery on January 15, 1934 is particularly noteworthy. It was at this heist that Dillinger shot a police officer, thereby adding murder to his growing list of charges.

Jail Time
Shortly after the East Chicago robbery, a fire broke out in the hotel where Dillinger and his friends were staying in Tucson, Arizona. Tipped off again, police found and arrested Dillinger. Allowing no room for error this round, the police had him carefully secured and sent to Indiana by aircraft, where he could be tried for murder (he was only guilty of theft in Arizona). He arrived at Chicago’s municipal airport on January 23, 1934, where he was greeted by throngs of reporters eager to spread word of the infamous criminal’s capture. At this point in time, Dillinger was already a public sensation, due to the media frenzy surrounding him. Authorities placed Dillinger under high security at the jail in Crown Point, Indiana, and treated him as though he had all due intent to try another escape. However, as things settled down, the armed patrol guards on the streets surrounding the prison were dismissed, and indoor guards became more lax. Despite having six armed guards between his cell and the outside world, the leniency of prison regulations permitted Dillinger to spend hours in his cell carving a fake gun out of an old piece of washboard using just a few razor-blades. A replica of his creation is on display in the museum. Dillinger used this gun to escape by taking one hostage and forcing him “at gunpoint” to lead him out of the prison. Dillinger then managed to hijack a car from a nearby alley, and before the prison knew what had happened, Dillinger was on the road again with two hostages in tow. It was then that Dillinger made the fatal mistake of crossing state borders in a stolen car, bringing his crimes under FBI jurisdiction.

Escape at Little Bohemia Lodge
At the time of Dillinger’s escape, J. Edgar Hoover was working on implementing a more credible, reformed FBI and developing a new strategy of assigning “special agents” to cases. Hoover appointed a special squad, led by Agent Melvin Purvis, specifically to track down John Dillinger. Constantly on the move after his escape, Dillinger drove across the Midwest trying to avoid the FBI. Along the way, Dillinger teamed up with his old girlfriend, Billie Frechette. After several close calls with the cops and losing Frechette, Dillinger set up camp at Little Bohemia Lodge, just outside the remote town of Mercer, Wisconsin, hiding out with a cadre of criminals, including “Babyface” Nelson, Homer Van Meter, and Tommy Carroll. Alerted by concerned residents and the inn’s owners, the FBI swarmed the house, but again, Dillinger managed to slip away. At this point, Dillinger concluded that he had simply become too recognizable. Seeking a better disguise, he decided to undergo major plastic surgery. It was at this time that he was christened with the nickname “Snake Eyes.” The surgery was able to change everything except his devious eyes.

Death John Dillinger
Following Dillinger’s last staged bank robbery in South Bend, Indiana, where he killed another policeman, Hoover made the unprecedented step of placing a $10,000 reward on Dillinger’s head. About a month after the announcement, a friend of Dillinger’s, an illegal immigrant working at a brothel under the stage name Ana Sage, tipped off the police. She was under the impression that the FBI would prevent her from deportation if she helped them. Sage told officials that Dillinger planned to attend a film at the Biograph Theater in Chicago. Armed agents waited outside of the theater waiting for Ana’s signal (a red dress).

“Dillinger gave one hunted look about him, and attempted to run up an alley, where several of my men were waiting. As he ran, he drew an automatic pistol from his pocket, although I have always been told that he carried his weapons in his waist band.”

“As his hand came up with the gun in it, several shots were fired by my men, before he could fire. He dropped, fatally wounded. I had hoped to take him alive, but I was afraid that he would resist to the last.

Hit Three Times.

Dillinger was shot through the back of the neck, the bullet coming out just under the right eye, another bullet crashed through his left breast. The latter would not have killed him, the bullet through the neck being fatal.

A third bullet was found in the left breast, it had passed through the tip of the heart. The breast wounds were two inches apart.”

nyn; cg_trophy; dnp;

Betty and Rosella Nelson, sisters and entertainers in Chicago, view the body of the notorious criminal John Dillinger in the morgue.

 

At the Cook County Morgue, attempts were made to identify Dillinger by his fingerprints, but the ends of his fingers were scarred, apparently having been treated with acid. Purvis had definitely identified him, before the body was taken to the morgue.

Examination at the morgue disclosed a recent wound in Dillinger’s chest about two inches long, which had just healed, and it was believed he had received it in a recent bank robbery raid. Purvis said his last known raid was the robbery of the Peoples Trust and Savings Bank at South Bend.

Dillinger’s hair was died coal black and cut very short. His eyebrows appeared to have been plucked to a fine line. He had a small black mustache.

Hundreds of spectators crowded, pushed and jostled after the bleeding body of the outlaw was removed.

Souvenir hunters madly dipped newspapers in the blood that stained the pavement. Handkerchiefs were whipped out and used to mop up the blood.

John Dillinger wanted poster.

John Dillinger wanted poster.

Traffic soon became so jammed that street cars were re-routed, police lines established and traffic blocked out of the area.

Frustrated souvenir hunters hurried to the county morgue, police estimated 2,000 persons rushed to the morgue for a view of the body, and shouted and fought with police to gain entrance. Stringent lines were drawn there also.

Dillinger did not have a chance to get away.

“Every back door both ways down the street was watched,” the Federal chief said.

Two agents were across the street in a restaurant; two were in a garage two doors from the theatre, and two on the sidewalk, in front of the theatre.

AN UNDATED FILE PHOTO

In this undated file photo, John Dillinger is seen.

 

On this day : The 2nd August 1876

Wild Bill Hickok is murdered

Wild_Bill_Hickok_sepia

“Wild Bill” Hickok, one of the greatest gunfighters of the American West, is murdered in Deadwood, South Dakota.

Born in Illinois in 1837, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok first gained notoriety as a gunfighter in 1861 when he coolly shot three men who were trying to kill him. A highly sensationalized account of the gunfight appeared six years later in the popular periodical Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, sparking Hickok’s rise to national fame. Other articles and books followed, and though his prowess was often exaggerated, Hickok did earn his reputation with a string of impressive gunfights.

After accidentally killing his deputy during an 1871 shootout in Abilene, Texas, Hickok never fought another gun battle. For the next several years he lived off his famous reputation, appearing as himself in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show. Occasionally, he worked as guide for wealthy hunters. His renowned eyesight began to fail, and for a time he was reduced to wandering the West trying to make a living as a gambler. Several times he was arrested for vagrancy.

In the spring of 1876, Hickok arrived in the Black Hills mining town of Deadwood, South Dakota. There he became a regular at the poker tables of the No. 10 Saloon, eking out a meager existence as a card player. On this day in 1876, Hickok was playing cards with his back to the saloon door. At 4:15 in the afternoon, a young gunslinger named Jack McCall walked into the saloon, approached Hickok from behind, and shot him in the back of the head. Hickok died immediately. McCall tried to shoot others in the crowd, but amazingly, all of the remaining cartridges in his pistol were duds. McCall was later tried, convicted, and hanged.

Hickok was only 39 years old when he died. The most famous gunfighter in the history of the West died with his Smith & Wesson revolver in his holster, never having seen his murderer. According to legend, Hickok held a pair of black aces and black eights when he died, a combination that has since been known as the Dead Man’s Hand.