-It’s hard to imagine what the world was like when these famous gangsters were running things, but we can only imagine that it was a pretty chaotic and unpleasant place to be, given how many people they killed and how much money they made off of it. While there are plenty of movies, TV shows, and books about gangsters, not everyone actually knows who the most notorious gangsters of all time are. Many people have heard the names Al Capone and John Dillinger, but they don’t really know what they did or why they deserve their fame as notorious gangsters.
If you want to learn more about these classic gangsters and other notable gangsters that were not quite so famous but were still dangerous criminals, read on to find out who these infamous 25 extremely notorious gangsters are!
Irish American gangster Jack Diamond, more commonly known as “Gentleman Jack,” was a bootlegger whose operations were largely focused in Philadelphia. He was a close friend to another notorious gangster and gambler, Arnold Rothstein. As he oversaw bootleg alcohol sales in lower Manhattan, Diamond had a conflict with Dutch Schultz and the other gangs of the city.
He also got involved in a series of kidnappings in Manhattan, including that of James Duncan. He died after being shot by his enemies in his hideout in Albany, New York, in 1931.
A mobster based in New York, Tom Devaney was the man behind the drift between mobster Mickey Spillane and the Genovese crime family in the 1960’s and 70’s. He also led the gang war against James Coonan, an Irish American mobster and racketeer in Manhattan.
George Barone, together with an alleged gunman named Joe “Mad Dog” Sullivan, murdered Tom Devany in Midtown Manhattan in 1976 before murdering Spillane the following year.
An Irish-American mobster and racketeer who use to operate in New York, Manhattan, James “Jimmy C” Coonan became a gangster and organize his own powerful crew of criminals to avenge his father, who was kidnapped, beaten and killed by another well-known mobster in the 1960’s, Mickey Spillane.
He was sentenced to 75 years in prison after he was proven guilty of murdering Harold Whitehead.
The man behind the infamous Indian organized crime syndicate dubbed as D-Company, Dawood Ibrahim currently heads a large, unlawful empire in India.
He is believed to have masterminded, financed, and organized the 1993 Bombay bombings, a series of 13 bomb explosions in Mumbai that left about 250 casualties in each attack. He used to have close links with the late Osama Bin Laden of Al Qaeda and is currently the most wanted man in India.
The Kray Brothers
Ronald Kray and Reginald Kray were identical twin brothers and infamous gangsters who were both convicted of numerous crimes. They were both arrested and convicted for this crime as well as many other crimes including murder.
They were responsible for organized crime in East London during the late 1950s and into 1967. The Krays, notorious crime bosses, committed crimes like armed robbery, murder, arson, and protection racket. In 1969, the Kray twins were arrested and convicted.
Demetrius Big Meech Flenory was born on June 21, 1968, and grew up in the streets of Detroit, Michigan. In the late 1980s, he started selling drugs, which led to his criminal career. He founded the Black Mafia Family in 1985 and had established cocaine distribution sales throughout the USA by 2000.
In the United States, the Black Mafia Family (BMF) was involved in drug trafficking and money laundering. His group became one of the most powerful drug trafficking gangs in America and was estimated to have revenue of $100 million annually.
Mexican drug lord Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera led the Sinaloa Cartel, an organized crime syndicate and drug trafficking group that used to operate in Mexico in the late 20th century. The cartel was also known then as the Guzman-Loera Organization, named after its leader.
He was one of the most powerful men of the world from about 2009 to 2016 when he was captured and extradited to the US. His approximate net worth in 2016 was roughly $4 billion, and at one point Forbes Magazine labelled him as “the most powerful drug trafficker in the world.”
Born in New York in 1931, James Burke was known as Jimmy The Gent. He is the most infamous gangster in America. He was responsible for fixing horse races, orchestrating bank robberies, extorting money from local businesses, and manipulating politicians.
Most believe that he was the mastermind behind the 1978 Lufthansa heist, an extensive robbery that took place at the John F. Kennedy International Airport and earned him around $2 million. He was a skilled con man and master of disguise who often targeted people to take advantage of their weaknesses. His criminal career came to a close on April 13, 1996, after being in the hospital.
A gangster who reached the peak of his popularity during the Castellammarese War in the 1930’s, Vito Genovese was an Italian-American mobster who headed the Genovese crime family.
He was mentor to the successor of the leader of the crime family, Vincent Gigante. In 1931, he plotted to kill Salvatore Maranzano with the help of Lucky Luciano. Genovese moved to Italy and prospered as he led the black market operations of his gambling empire.
A Polish gangster who was known as the Mob’s accountant, Meyer Lansky was among the organized crime figures who developed the National Crime Syndicate in the United States.
He was among the most powerful and notorious gangsters of the 20th century and played a big role in operating the Italian Mafia. He developed and operated some of the largest gambling empires in the United States and masterminded the formation of the criminal underworld.
Known as the modern gangster of the modern French history, Jacques Mesrine was largely involved in several bank robberies, murders, kidnappings, and burglaries in the United States, Canada, and France during the 20th century.
He was also known as The Man with a Thousand Faces because of his aptitude for disguising himself for each of his operations. He was imprisoned several times but was always able to escape, even killing the judges who sentenced him.
James Whitey Bulger
James Whitey Bulger was an Irish-American mobster and a longtime crime boss of the Winter Hill Gang. Due to his reputation as a thief and street fighter, he was able to meet more experienced criminals and find more lucrative opportunities. Bulger’s first arrest happened in 1943 and was on the charge of larceny.
Adding Bulger to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list in 1999 made him the second most wanted fugitive on the list behind Osama bin Laden. In 2011 he was arrested by authorities in the city of Santa Monica, California.
Nicknamed Joe Batters, or Big Tuna, Anthony Accardo emerged from being a notorious hoodlum to being the head of the crime syndicate known as the Chicago Outfit.
The Chicago Mob increased in power during his tenure as he expanded its operations in several territories throughout the United States.
Born Benjamin Siegel in 1906, Bugsy Siegel was an infamous mobster who became a founding member of the National Crime Syndicate. In 1931, he moved to Hollywood and opened an office for a liquor distribution company.
He then began his criminal career by running illegal gambling operations that were based in California. he was one of the leaders and founders of Murder Incorporated and committed multiple murders under its auspices. On June 20, 1947, he was shot and killed by a sniper.
A Sicilian mobster, Don Carlo Gambino was the head of the Gambino crime family, the most powerful family in Manhattan at the time. In 1957, he was also at the helm of the Commission of the American Mafia, an Italian-American criminal society that operated much like the Sicilian Mafia.
He stood up against the Anastasia loyalists in the 1960’s and expanded his rackets to several parts of the United States. He eventually controlled about 90% of the ports in New York, gaining millions in the process.
John Dillinger is considered one of the most notorious bank robbers in U.S. history. He is said to have robbed nearly 25 banks and police stations and murdered several people throughout East Chicago and Indiana.
Born Francesco Castiglia, Frank Costello was an infamous mafia leader who served as the boss of the Luciano crime family. He was born to a poor family in rural Italy and emigrated to America when he was only five years old.
His nickname is The Prime Minister of Crime because he pulled strings with politicians and judges all across the country. He is also credited with creating innovative strategies that became staples in organized crime, such as dividing up territory so each gangster could profit without encroaching on another gang’s operation.
He led the Lower East Side Gang of Manhattan while he worked for another notorious group, the Morello Gang. Costello, together with Lucky Luciano, became part of the Sicilian Mafia Family and was involved in the operation of rum manufacturing.
A businessman and a gambler, American gangster Arnold Rothstein was the organizer of corruption in professional athletics, particularly the fixing of the 1919 World Series. Dubbed as “The Brain,” Rothstein was also the father of one of the most infamous Jewish mobs in New York.
He also established and operated a casino and was greatly involved in the smuggling practices along the Hudson River and the Great Lakes.
Known as the unequaled leader of the political machine that ruled the governments of Atlantic City and Atlantic County, Enoch Lewis Johnson began to rise in power when he was elected as the new sheriff of the Atlantic County Republic Mexican Committee.
He led a notorious organization involved in prostitution and gambling and was an advocate of the vice industry of the United States.
Born Salvatore Lucania, Lucky Luciano became the first boss of the modern Genovese crime family. He was engaged in various activities, like mugging, shoplifting, and extortion. He was successful in bringing together the different Italian gangs into a single organized crime group.
One of his most famous accomplishments was setting up a deal with Frank Costello to work together and split up control over New York City. This deal eventually fell apart due to Costello’s inability to keep up with his end of the bargain, leading to resentment on both sides. He was engaged in various activities, like mugging, shoplifting, and extortion.
Billy the Kid
Also known as Henry Antrim, Billy the Kid was a gangster who committed his first murder at the age of 18. Antrim was a 19th-century gunman who became involved in the Lincoln County War and was known for his unparalleled skill in handling firearms. Throughout his life, he killed nearly 30 people and stole several horses and cattle. Firsthand sources say that Billy the Kid killed only those he thought deserved it.
Born in 1899, Alphonse Gabriel Capone was an Italian-American gangster who became one of the most notorious criminals in American history. He was also the boss of the Chicago Outfit and is believed to be responsible for numerous murders. His nickname Scarface is a reflection of his brutal reputation as a violent mobster.
As head of Chicago’s organized crime syndicate, Capone expanded gambling and prostitution rackets throughout the city during Prohibition while dividing other criminal activities with other gang bosses.
With nearly unlimited funds from bootlegging, Capone bought out policemen, judges, and politicians. When Al Capone arrived in Atlanta in May 1932, he was sentenced to life in prison and he died on January 25th, 1947 due to a stroke and heart attack.
Jesse Woodson James was the most famous member of the 19th century gang known as the James-Younger Gang. James had been a Confederate guerrilla during the Civil War after his family’s farm was attacked by Union soldiers.
He and his cohorts went on to rob over 20 Union trains, stagecoaches, and banks. That all came to an end when James was shot and killed by two men out for the reward money offered by the Governor of Missouri who was looking to put a stop to the robberies.
Known as “The Cocaine Godmother,” Griselda Blanco is a pioneer of one of the biggest cocaine drug trades in Miami. She spent her childhood and adolescence as a pickpocket and prostitute. As an adult, she was indicted on federal drug conspiracy charges and spent 19 years in U.S. prisons.
She was said to have moved over 300 kilos of cocaine a month and ordered the deaths of hundreds, though she was only indicted on three of these murders. Once released, she was deported to Colombia where she lived out the remainder of her life. She was gunned down while shopping for meat in 2012 at the age of 69.
Colombian drug lord and narco-terrorist Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria was born on 1 December 1949. He led the Medelln Cartel and was the sole leader. Medellín Cartel was a notorious Colombian drug trafficking organization that smuggled billions of dollars worth of cocaine into America and other countries worldwide throughout the 1980s until he died in 1993.
He is still considered one of the most successful drug dealers ever with an estimated net worth upwards of $70 billion (in today’s currency).
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