You probably know about these notorious con men, but do you know which criminals are the richest in history? We’ve ranked them according to who amassed the biggest fortune. Some have accumulated significant wealth in the world of criminals, and those have not. The richest criminals in the world come from all walks of life and have engaged in various criminal activities.
Some of the wealthiest criminals include drug lords, people in business, and even celebrities. Many of the richest criminals got their start in organized crime. Drug lords, for example, can make billions of dollars each year from trafficking drugs. They often have empires that span across multiple countries. Likewise, people in business can make a fortune through illegal activities such as fraud or money laundering. And celebrities can earn millions by endorsing scams or participating in other illicit schemes.
All of these criminals have in common the ability to amass large sums of money through criminal activity. While some may use their wealth to live lavish lifestyles, others use it to fund their illegal operations.
The Richest Criminals in The World
10. Bernard Madoff
- $820 million
On April 29, 1938, Bernard Madoff was born in Queens, New York. He was a graduate of Hofstra University and worked on Wall Street for more than 40 years. In December 2008, Madoff was arrested and charged with running the largest Ponzi scheme. Over two decades, he had bilked investors out of an estimated $65 billion. In 2009, Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 federal felonies and was sentenced to 150 years in prison. At the time of his arrest, Madoff was worth an estimated $800 million—making him one of the richest criminals in the world.
9. Joaquin Guzman Loera – ‘El Chapo’
- $1 billion
El Chapo is the richest criminal in the world. He has an estimated net worth of $1 billion. He made his fortune through drug trafficking and other illegal activities. He is currently in prison, but his wealth continues to grow.
El Chapo is not the only criminal on the list of the richest criminals in the world. Others have made their fortunes through drugs, extortion, and other illegal activities. Some of these criminals are more notorious than others, but they all share one thing: they have amassed a fortune through crime.
Despite their wealth, most of these criminals are behind bars. They may be able to enjoy their riches while they are in prison, but eventually, they will have to answer for their crimes. And when they do, they will likely find that their wealth does not provide them with much protection from the law.
8. Al Capone
- About $1.3 billion
Al Capone was born in 1899 and died in 1947. He was an American gangster who led a crime syndicate in Chicago during the Prohibition era. He is considered the most famous and successful gangster in American history. His organization, known as the Chicago Outfit, dominated organized crime in the city during the 1920s and 1930s.
Capone was born into a low-income family on January 17, 1899, in Brooklyn, New York. When he was 18 years old, he moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he began working for Johnny Torrio, a leading figure in the city’s an organized crime scene. Torrio recognized Capone’s abilities and soon promoted him to head of his operations. In 1920, prohibition went into effect in the United States, making it illegal to produce or sell alcohol.
7. Allen Stanford
- About $2 billion
On March 6, 1950, Allen Stanford was born in Mexia, Texas. He was a college dropout and worked his way up to becoming one of the richest criminals in the world. Stanford’s business empire included an offshore bank, a shipping company, and Antigua-based Stanford International Bank Ltd. (SIB).
In 2009, Stanford was convicted of 13 counts of fraud and conspiracy for bilking investors out of $7 billion through SIB. He is currently serving a 110-year prison sentence.
6. Leona Helmsley
- $2 billion
“The Queen of Mean” called taxes something “Only the little people pay,” Leona Helmsley was born in 1920 and died in 2007. She was an American businesswoman and hotelier known as The Queen of Mean. She was convicted of tax evasion in 1989 and served 19 months in prison. At the time of her death, she was worth an estimated $2 billion. Helmsley was one of the richest criminals in the world and one of the richest women in the world.
5. Carlos Enrique Lehder Rivas
- $2.7 billion
According to Forbes, Carlos Enrique Lehder Rivas is one of the richest criminals in the world. He is a Colombian drug lord who co-founded the Medellín Cartel with Pablo Escobar. Together, they controlled nearly 80% of the cocaine market in the United States. Lehder was arrested in 1987 and sentenced to life in prison without parole. He is currently incarcerated in a high-security prison in Germany.
4. Khun Sa
- $5 billion
Khun Sa was born in Burma in 1933. He was a warlord and drug kingpin and is considered one of the richest criminals in the world. He made his fortune by trafficking heroin and opium and is believed responsible for up to 80% of the heroin that entered the United States in the 1980s. Khun Sa was eventually arrested and extradited to the United States, where he died in 2007.
3. Viktor Bout
- $6 billion
On January 13, 1967, Viktor Bout was born in Dushanbe, Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic, Soviet Union. Bout was convicted of conspiring to kill U.S. citizens and officials and sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2011. He is considered one of the richest criminals in the world, with a net worth of $6 billion.
2. Amado Carillo Fuentes
- $25 billion
When it comes to the richest criminals in the world, Amado Carrillo Fuentes is always near the top of the list. Nicknamed “The Lord of the Skies,” he made a fortune as Mexico’s Juarez cartel head. He was known for his innovative use of airplanes to smuggle drugs into the United States and his ruthless business tactics.
Carrillo Fuentes was killed in 1997 while undergoing plastic surgery to change his appearance. But even after his death, his cartel continued to be a significant player in the drug trade. Carrillo Fuentes was estimated to have a net worth of $25 billion, making him one of the richest criminals in history.
1. Pablo Emilio Escobar
- $9 to $30 billion
Pablo Emilio Escobar was born on December 1, 1949, in Rionegro, Antioquia, Colombia. He was a drug lord and cartel kingpin who founded and operated the Medellín Cartel. Escobar was one of the richest criminals in the world. At the height of his career, he was estimated to have $30 billion.
Escobar’s criminal career began in the 1970s. He started smuggling cocaine into the United States for the Cali Cartel. In the early 1980s, he formed his cartel, which soon became one of the most influential organizations in Colombia. The Medellín Cartel was responsible for up to 80% of all cocaine smuggled into the United States. Escobar’s wealth and power led to widespread corruption in Colombia.