What Is a Gangster?

Gangsters—whether a crime lord or drug lord—are known to make a lot of money, even though the ways that they do so are illegal, violent, and lack legitimacy. From drug trafficking to different forms of financial scams, crime was extremely lucrative for certain individuals during a period of global crime in the 1900s.

In this article, we will explore ten of the richest gangsters to have been in the business of crime, looking at the net worth of famous gangsters including Pablo Escobar, Al Capone, Frank Lucas, and El Chapo among others.

Key Takeaways

  • From drug trafficking to different forms of financial scams, crime was extremely lucrative for these mob bosses.
  • As the richest gangster of all time, Pablo Escobar's net worth is estimated to have been $30 billion at his peak.
  • Other famous gangsters include Al Capone, Frank Lucas, and El Chapo, whose net worths ranked in the billions.

Al Capone

Al Capone, the American gangster who ran the Chicago Mafia, made most of his money during prohibition. By 1929, Capone's income from the various aspects of his business included: $60 million from illegal alcohol, $25 million from gambling establishments, $10 million from vice, and another $10 million from various other rackets.

It is claimed that Capone was employing over 600 gangsters to protect his business from rival gangs. Based on inflation, Al Capone's net worth based on his empire would be worth about $1.3 billion today.

Interestingly enough, though the mobster was known for bootlegging, prostitution, and murder, Al Capone only ended up in prison once, due to tax evasion, designating his case one of the most famous tax cheat cases.

Amado Carillo Fuentes

Fuentes is considered to be the second richest drug-related criminal, after Pablo Escobar. He was head of the Juárez Cartel of Mexico and became so after killing his boss. His nickname was "El Señor de Los Cielos" ("The Lord of the Skies") due to his large collection of aircrafts, which included 22 Boeing 727 jets that he used to transport cocaine. He was estimated to be worth around $25 billion. He was found dead after a long plastic surgery to change his visage. The surgeons were also found dead inside steel canisters that were buried in concrete.

Anthony Salerno

Anthony Salerno, also known as "Fat Tony" for his size, was one of the top mob bosses in New York. As the boss of the Genovese crime family, known as the "Ivy League" of organized crime, Salerno started making a fortune through gambling, loansharking, and protection rackets as a young man. Anthony Salerno's net worth is estimated at $600 million and was famous for always wearing a fedora and smoking a cigar. In 1986, Salerno was ranked first by Fortune magazine in the list of "The 50 Biggest Mafia Bosses."

Dawood Ibrahim

Dawood Ibrahim is a drug trafficker and mobster who has been accused of orchestrating the Mumbai bomb blasts in 1993. Starting off as a small-time hustler, he has now become a global player in the terror network and is wanted in India with a reward of $25 million. His sphere of organized crime is referred to as the D-Company.

Ibrahim is said to have close ties with terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and may be located in Pakistan. Dawood Ibrahim's net worth is estimated at $6.7 billion.

El Chapo

A Mexican drug lord, El Chapo was considered the most powerful drug trafficker in the world at his peak as leader of the Sinaloa Cartel. It's estimated El Chapo smuggled more drugs such as cocaine, meth, heroin, and marijuana into the U.S. and Europe than any other drug lord, doing so by using distribution cells and long-range tunnels.

El Chapo's net worth was estimated at roughly $1 billion in 2011, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration considered him the "godfather of the drug world."

"El Chapo" smuggled more drugs into the U.S. and Europe than any other drug kingpin, making him one of the most powerful in the world.

Frank Lucas

Frank Lucas, a drug kingpin from Harlem, was best known as the "Original Gangster" with a unique business model. He would procure heroin directly from opium king Khun Sa in Vietnam, and reportedly hide it in the coffins of American soldiers that were then flown from Vietnam to the United States. By cutting out the middleman, Lucas became one of the best-known drug traffickers in Harlem.

When it comes to calculating Frank Lucas' net worth, he was supposedly making $1 million a day at the peak of his business and had an estimated $52 million stashed away in the Cayman Islands.

Frank Lucas's wife, Julianna Farrait-Rodriguez, was a homecoming queen from Puerto Rico who was also in on the scheme. She was convicted of various drug-related charges various times, and together the two were known as the "Black Bonnie and Clyde."

Griselda Blanco

Griselda Blanco, also known as the "Black Widow" or "Cocaine Godmother," is perhaps the most famous female gangster, who was a drug lord for Pablo Escobar's Medellin cartel in Colombia.

Reports claim that Griselda Blanco's net worth was $2 billion at her peak. She was best known for her ruthless contract killings. Ironically, she was shot by a contract killer in Medellin in 2012 after she was released on a 10-year drug charge prison sentence.

José Figueroa Agosto

Puerto Rican drug lord José Figueroa Agosto is said to have amassed millions from his drug racketeering. He rose in the ranks of his criminal organization after killing a driver who allegedly stole a shipment of cocaine. After being caught and convicted for the murder, he was sentenced to more than 200 years in prison. However, he walked out of prison with a forged order of release.

Agosto's organization was controlling 90% of the drug traffic from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico during its peak. CelebrityNetWorth.com estimates he was worth $100 million. He was released from prison in March 2020 after serving a sentence of 10 years.

Pablo Escobar

Pablo Escobar controlled the majority of the cocaine in Colombia and built his wealth by flooding the U.S. market with the drug. Forbes named Escobar one of the richest men in the world seven years in a row. By 1987, Escobar controlled an estimated 40% of the Medellin drug cartel's business.

In 1989, based on public records, Forbes valued his net worth at $3 billion. Clearly, this was a very conservative estimate, considering he offered to pay off the national debt of Colombia, which stood at $10 billion at the time. According to CelebrityNetWorth.com, his net worth was $30 billion; all profits from his cocaine business.

Pablo Escobar is considered the richest gangster of all time, with his peak net worth estimated at $30 billion.

Semion Mogilevich

As an economics graduate, Semion Mogilevich has a diversified portfolio. His financial crimes include wire fraud, drug trafficking, mail fraud, prostitution, money laundering, contract killings, weapons trafficking, and securities fraud. He is considered to be the boss of all the bosses of all of the Russian mafias. His criminal empire is thought to be vast and far-reaching and he is considered to be one of the most dangerous men in the world. His net worth is estimated to be $10 billion.

The Bottom Line

Many of these famous gangsters were paying off government officials and law enforcement agents in order to run their international organized crime schemes, which amassed millions. Although many spent decades running cartels, murdering uncooperative rivals, and living life on the run, in the end, many of these gangsters were jailed or killed.