Drugs make the world go around. However, most of the good ones are still very illegal, albeit highly coveted. This combination of want and shall-not-have has lured a whole lot of scary and dangerous people into the drug cartel business. Here’s a list of the fifteen most successful drug lords of all time.
Ricky “Freeway” Ross
At the bottom of the list for biggest baddest drug lord falls to Ricky Ross and no, you’re not getting Rick-rolled. Ross, who was introduced to cocaine in his college years, eventually employed hundreds of henchmen in dozens of states. For years, he managed to elude capture or death, even though he was frequently selling to rival gangs.
So how did this bombastic badass who somehow convinced everyone to call him “Freeway” end up getting caught? Well instead of having one of his bajillions (approx.) of minions transport 15 kilos of raw cocaine, Freeway said he ‘got this one’. So where was he transporting this massive haul of cocaine, the possession of which could net him up to 8 years in jail? To a secret storage room? To a hand off where someone else would distribute it? Why no, he was on his way to directly deal it to an undercover agent, which nets this genius a minimum of 20-50 years.
If you’re dying to hear this guys voice, you can find an interview here.
Griselda is one of the few women to ever make it to the notorious top echelons of drug dealing society. Obviously, drug dealing seems to fall more in the menswear category, but the female Scarface didn’t mind taking the heat. Griselda Blanco is mostly notorious for the drug wars in Miami that took place during the late 70s and 80s. Save for a few others, she’s one of the few American drug lords who prospered during the 80s amidst fierce competition as cocaine supplanted marijuana as the drug of choice.
Griselda was apprehended after attempting to escape authorities in California by the Drug Enforcement Administration. She spent about 20 years in the big house, and was released in 2004. After her release, Griselda decided to one-up her male counterparts one last time, and disappeared.
Leroy Barnes owns the dubious description of being one of the most pretentious and arrogant dealers to ever exist. Barnes, born October 15th, 1933, set up shop in the city of Harlem after a much loved Frank Lucas left the scene, spawning a coke and heroin business so profitable he’d eventually stoke his tremendous ego by writing a book about it. He’d been to prison a few times before for low-level drug dealing (there’s a pun somewhere in that descriptor), but decided that a lower tier of operation wasn’t really in his best interest.
Leroy Barnes founded and controlled a gang by the name of ‘The Council’ which, as mysterious as it sounds, didn’t last long. Getting attention from The New York post, the paper dubbed him “Mr. Untouchable.” A dubious moniker, considering Barnes was arrested several times before. After returning to prison for some leisure and writing, Barnes was released and proclaimed himself a retired crime boss of Harlem drugs. Nowadays he mostly spends his time wearing large glasses, lounging in comfortable chairs, and looking like Larry Wilmore’s doppelganger is vaguely disappointed you.
Felix “The Cat” Mitchell
What happens when you combine pot and dope with a catchy, iconic name? Felix Mitchell, born August 23rd, 1954 was the leader of a crime organization and kingpin of the 69 Mob and carried around the sick moniker of “Felix the Cat.” Stay tuned and you’ll find out just why that fits so well. Felix, like most drug lords, started out relatively small, having to fend off several gangs and mob bosses who demanded control. Mitchell was credited as the nation’s first leader in large-scale, multi-state drug operations.
Eventually, he was apprehended and taken to prison and stabbed to death. Now, this is where we’re going to take a look at why the name “Felix the Cat” is so perfect in description. See, law officials had hoped that the imprisonment of Felix and then following death would reduce crime, but instead, the crime inflated. As it turns out, giant drug organizations often end up reducing crime in order to reduce police scrutiny and ensure the drug business runs smoothly. It has been called “The Felix Paradox,” but it’s more like a cat with nine lives – Felix seems to enjoy his 2nd of 9 lives affecting the culture for generations. Just with drugs and murder and not the characteristics of a whimsical black and white cartoon from the 30s.
Christopher “Dudus” Coke
If you’re born with coke in your name, your parents have set you up either for success as a soft-drink salesman or bloody drug lord glory. Christopher Coke was born to a drug lord in Jamaica so take a wild guess which on he ended up as. Coke was born March 12th, 1969 in Kingston, Jamaica. He quickly learned the ins and outs of the business from his father, and was well on his way to fortune by the time he reached adulthood.
He eventually became so infamous that the US started requesting extradition. Of course Jamaica refused to do this, resulting in the US taking extreme offense and launching an effort to capture Coke themselves. After the news broke, supporters of Coke started rioting, blowing stuff up and eventually…well…blowing more stuff up. Jamaica declared a state of emergency and on May 24th 2010, the US rolled through. A few weeks later, the body count had risen to nearly a hundred in only a few days, which is equal to the US bodycount in Iraq and Afghanistan for an entire year. Coke escaped, but decided that doing more damage than the Taliban was a good enough reason to turn himself in, and he was eventually being apprehended at a roadblock. Jamaica quickly decided if the US wanted this little star-crossed hell machine they could have him.
Zhenli Ye Gon
It’s nice to know that, if ever America wins its mythical war on drugs in Mexico, there will always be horrible, violent, bloody drug wars in Asia. Zhenli has been accused of importing mass quantities of ephedrines and other illegal substance. He is even claimed to be part of an organized Mexican drug cartel, but according to Zhenli himself, this is false. The worst part about the entire fiasco is the Mexican government actually authorized Ye Gon to import metric tons of ephedrines into their country. When the authorization ended, Ye Gon was accused of continuing the practice thus violating Mexican law.
In March 2007, Mexican authorities raided Gon’s house and found an estimated $207 million dollars, 200,000 euros, 2 million Mexican pesos and 11 million Hong Kong dollars. There was also a large amount of jewels which have an as yet unidentified value. Pursuant to these findings, Zhenli was accused of obtaining this money from drug trafficking, which he denied–claiming he made the money selling
novelty cats to Chinese restaurants legitimate bond investments. Out of all the people on this list, Zhenli is the only one to repeatedly deny absolutely every accusation. Even the people of Mexico believe that Ye Gon was framed – make sure to buy a bumper sticker
When Denzel Washington and Russel Crowe star in a movie directed by Sir Ridley Scott based off of you, it’s time to consider whether or not you’re in a great line of work or you’re a hardened criminal with a well-acted minority side-kick. Frank Lucas is a name that resounds in even the most uneducated of criminals. Harlem, his main area of business, was ripe with the destruction wrought by rampant heroin addiction back in the late 60s and early 70s. Lucas dominated the trade with an almost supernatural acumen, he even went and dubbed his own product, “Blue Magic”, which when tested with an indicator, turns… blue. That’s because it had magically deadly purity levels of 80% – 90%.
Frank Lucas, being the practical business man he was, decided that using a middle-man to purchase heroin could be bad for productivity. According to Lucas in his late age, his heroin made approximately $25 million a day just on 116th Street. No, not the Bobby Womack song, but 116th in Manhattan. Though in American Gangster he was portrayed as powerful and cunning, these days he’s not doing much harming of anyone as his old age has lead to symptoms of dementia.
Arturo, Arturo! If there were a contest to for Saddam Hussein look-alikes, this guy would win hands down. The Beltrán-Leyva Cartel was his main business, with Arturo leading, supported by the fellowship of his brothers. At some point, they got tired of the name after he died and moved onto some other gang.
Arturo, allegedly, being the great look-a-like to Saddam he is, led groups of assassins to rid him of unwanted competition. It’s one thing to send a hit man out, but Leyva went as far as forming groups – like a colony of ants – to hunt down and murder anyone in his way, including simple drug runners and rival colonies of caterpillars. The list of deeds Leyva has racked up for himself is pretty impressive, including the cartel he’s created which controls an air-tight laundry list of federal offenses: human smuggling, money laundering, extortion, kidnapping, murder, contract killing, torture, gun-running. It goes on, covering the grounds of acts of violence toward women, children, minors, and the elderly.
The Dutch. You didn’t even need college for that one – just looking at his name reminds you of Hans Gruber from Die Hard; you’re expecting a large skyscrapper, Bruce Willis and guns. Lots of guns. While you won’t find Bruce or the Nakatomi Plaza anywhere near Klaas Bruinsma, you can easily find weapons, money, knives, explosives and of course drugs. More drugs than you can shake an “Yippee Ki-yay Motherfucker!” at.
Klaas Bruinsma originally comes from Amsterdam, but conducted his business across the United Kingdom, Germany and Belgium. At one time, Klaas was considered the hashish king of Europe. And yes, that’s right – he wasn’t infamous for coke, meth or heroin but good ol’ grass and hashish. He was kicking it oldschool. The letters THC aren’t found anywhere in his name, but there is a solid chance they are tattooed across his very blood cells. This man was born five steps ahead of the Bob Marley and Jimmy Hendrix. Snoop Dogg looks like a Mr. Clean in comparison to Klaas. When Bruinsma was shot to death June 27th, 1991, a friggin’ boat was built in his name. The name looks like something out of a Fraggle Rock episode and goes a bit like this: ‘t Amsterdammertje. If you can unscramble that, we’ll be your reference for a NASA application.
The first thing he won’t say to you is “call me Ismael.” Ismael, born January 1st, 1948, is considered notable among the existing meth kingpins today. Which is a surprising feat, considering most of the major meth in the world is made in three towns in Kentucky. He stands about 5’9”, about the standard size for an evil crime boss and war criminals. While he doesn’t suffer from extreme inferiority complex like others, the man has actually worked with Mexican drug lord Joaquin Guzman, at least according to those official guys from that place below Texas.
Much like any wise corporate leader, Ismael started small – sending bits of cocaine to smaller areas – then slowly upping the flow, grade and location of delivery. The irony of Guzman is that he used to be a farmer. While that may make you think he’s a quaint and harmless man, this probably gave him a very extensive knowledge of chemicals and fertilizers. He melded that with the innate evilness of farmers to become an impressive drug lord.
Ramon Felix was huge. For some reason, it appears that almost all leaders are relatively short and thus attempt to make up for it by either becoming a ruthless dictator, a war general or a business associate. But for Ramon, size hasn’t mattered. You can ask his 300 victims that too. His name, while French in nature, accentuates the very not French look plastered on his face.
Probably the most irritating thing about Felix is how impossibly perfect he seems to be hidden. Information (other than the fact that he’s worse than Scarface) about his ‘career’ is non-existent, but the FBI wants him more than homegrown criminals. Ramon Felix was actually on the FBI’s most wanted list a while back, which can be found in some Internet archives. On an interesting side note, Ramon was ‘possibly’ found dead in the remains of a Mexican shoot-out. It appeared that Mexican officials were having great difficulty determining if the body was in fact Ramon, Andre the Giant or the Hulk. Eventually, it was determined that Andre the Giant had died years earlier and the Hulk was still alive and pursuing a decidedly mediocre film career. The end.
Fuentes was a man of many talents. While some of us make model furniture and elaborate altars dedicated to ex girlfriends, Fuentes had hobbies of the more…bloodthirsty variety. He was belonged to multiple drug cartels, for one. He also watched Fight Club so many times he died in a hospital trying to alter his appearance with plastic surgery. While no Tyler Durden, Amado was definitely not a character to be reckoned with. Upon first glance, you’d think yourself, “Isn’t that the drummer from Pink Floyd?”, but over time you’ll slowly come to recognize that no, it’s just a drug lord who probably practices torture and not the drums in his free time.
Amado had been the top drug trafficker among cocaine pushers in Mexico, smuggling more than four times the average amount of cocaine into the US. His nickname, “Lord of the Skies”, comes from the fact that he owned groovy jumbo jets to move about. Places of interest to Amado included Russia and Cuba, but eventually he returned back to his alma mater of Mexico. Feeling a bit worried, he underwent a light treatment (extensive face plastic surgery) to confuse authorities. Unfortunately, Amado died during the procedure.
There’s nothing better than being a Panamanian politician and military leader and drug lord. Oh, did we mention he’d worked with the CIA before being captured as a prisoner of war by the United States? We can clearly see the CIA has incredible instincts when picking employees. Born on February 11th, 1934, Manuel would eventually see a rise to power in Panama as a political leader. His stay in office was 6 years, just about half the time it takes to make a new Guns N’ Roses album.
His noble list of accomplishments range from a acting as a diplomatic leader and owning a charitable businesses. After a few raids and an American-lead invasion of Panama, Manuel was apprehended and sentenced to eight counts of illegal drug trade, racketeering and money laundering in 1992. Mr. Noriega, now at his own home sweet home, had manned his career very well up until that point. What’s better than being a jerk with military power and dictatorship? Apparently having extensive connections with the CIA which make you virtually immune to prosecution during Republican administrations.
Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman
Make no mistake, “El Chapo” or Shorty, wasn’t short on criminal prowess. Interestingly enough, Joaquin was actually arrested once, but escaped. This is likely because proper prison garment measurements weren’t made to suit Joaquin. El Chapo eventually bribed a guard to help escape. The guard, after receiving a fat wad of cash, opened Joaquin’s cell door, tucked him away inside a laundry cart and finally, tossed him into the trunk of an exiting car. Despite the elusive status of the escape, apparently the only thing no one bothered to question is Joaquin’s apparent ability to fit into small spaces.
Joaquin Guzman was born on April 4th, 1957. His father, a cattle rancher (suspected of growing role models for Joaquin. Once enough time passed, Joaquin dropped his dream of selling oranges (no, he really sold oranges – as in the fruit – when young) and pursued greater interests. Those interests just happened to be a slew of illegal activity involving cocaine and smuggling.
Of all the world’s drug lords, absolutely no one compares to the sheer power of Pablo Escobar. In fact, this man is so blazingly insidious, he ran for office. This didn’t work out because, in the world of politics, a drug lord is not welcome. Because who wants lies and criminal activity in the government?
Pablo Escobar was born December 1st, 1949. His main area of operation was Columbia, and to this day, he stands as the exemplar of the classic Columbian drug lord. The power he’d garnered, which began sometime in 1975 during the beginnings of his cocaine lordship, lasted for what seemed an eternity. Forbes magazine (a righteously ethical press) named Pablo the seventh richest man in the world in 1987. If he were still alive, he would have been a few notches higher – minus the 80′s neon lights, inventive music like Jefferson Starship and family-friendly documentaries on kingpins. To this day, no one compares to the control, power and ruthlessness of Pablo Escobar.