Meet the 20 most notorious gangsters and mafia in history (2024)

Throughout history, organized crime has been defined by notorious gangsters and gangsters whose illegal activities and large personalities have left a lasting mark on society. From the Prohibition era of the early 20th century to the modern underworld, these notorious figures have captivated the public imagination and inspired countless books, films and television shows.

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Here is a look at 20 of history’s most notorious gangsters and mafia figures, individuals synonymous with crime, power, and infamy. Their stories, often marked by violence, betrayal, and immense wealth, offer a glimpse into the dark world of organized crime, highlighting both their criminal exploits and their lasting impact on popular culture and law enforcement.

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Some of these infamous figures include Al Capone, who rose to power during Prohibition and became one of the most ruthless and powerful mafia bosses in history, and Pablo Escobar, who became one of the richest and most feared drug lords in Colombia. These figures, along with many others, have left a lasting impact on the criminal underworld and continue to fascinate people around the world.

1. Al Capone

Al Capone, an infamous American gangster, rose to power during the Prohibition era of the 1920s. He made millions of dollars through bootlegging, gambling, and prostitution. Nicknamed “Scarface” because of the scar on his face, Capone’s reign ended when he was convicted of tax evasion in 1931 and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

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2. Pablo Escobar

Pablo Escobar was a Colombian drug lord and leader of the Medellín Cartel, responsible for much of the cocaine trade during the 1980s. Despite his criminal activities, Escobar was known for his charitable work and community support. He was killed in a shootout with Colombian authorities in 1993.

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3. White Griselda

Griselda Blanco, known as “Godmother of Cocaine”, was a key figure in the Medellín cartel. Responsible for trafficking tons of cocaine into the United States in the 1970s and 1980s, Blanco was linked to hundreds of murders. She was eventually captured and sentenced to prison, dying in 2012.

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4. John Dillinger

John Dillinger was an infamous Depression-era American gangster known for his bank robberies and daring prison escapes. He was Public Enemy No. 1 to the FBI, and his exploits intrigued the public. Dillinger was killed by FBI agents in a shootout outside a theater in 1934.

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5. Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is a notorious Mexican drug lord and leader of the Sinaloa Cartel. Responsible for smuggling large amounts of drugs into the United States, Guzman was eventually captured and convicted of multiple drug trafficking, money laundering, and murder charges. He is currently serving a life sentence.

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6. Bugsy Siegel

Bugsy Siegel was an American gangster and one of the most feared gangsters of the 20th century. Involved in bootlegging, gambling, and murder, Siegel was the founder of the infamous “Murder, Inc..” gang. He was murdered in 1947, allegedly by other mafia members.

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7. Le Minh

Meyer Lansky was a notorious Jewish-American mafia boss and an influential figure in organized crime in the early 20th century. A founder and leader of the “National crime organization”, Lansky was involved in illegal gambling, smuggling, and money laundering. Although he was arrested several times, he managed to evade conviction for most of his activities.

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8. Lucky Luciano

Lucky Luciano, known as “The father of organized crime”, was an Italian-American mafia leader who played a key role in the development of the American Mafia. He was a key figure in the illegal gambling, alcohol smuggling, and drug trafficking operations that dominated organized crime in the United States during the first half of the 20th century.

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9. Frank Costello

Frank Costello was an Irish-American organized crime boss who operated in New York City during the mid-20th century. Known for his ruthless tactics and control of various criminal organizations, Costello had close ties to politicians, which allowed him to avoid prosecution for many years. He was eventually convicted of tax evasion.

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10. John Gotti

John Gotti, also known as the “Teflon Don,” was an American mafia don and the boss of the Gambino crime family in New York City. Rising to power in the 1980s, Gotti became one of the most powerful and feared mafia bosses. He was eventually captured and convicted in 1992, and died in prison in 2002.

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11. Bach Bulger

Whitey Bulger was a notorious Boston crime boss who rose to power in the 1970s and controlled organized crime in the city for decades. Known for his brutal tactics and ties to the FBI, Bulger evaded capture for years before being captured in 2011 and sentenced to life in prison.

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12. Carlo Gambino

Carlo Gambino was a notorious Italian-American mafia boss and boss of the Gambino crime family in New York City. Known for his ruthlessness, Gambino expanded the family’s reach and power during his 20-plus year reign. His legacy and infamy live on.

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13. Stephanie St. Clair

Stephanie St. Clair was a formidable leader in organized crime in Harlem during the 1920s. Despite the challenges she faced as a black woman, she built a powerful criminal empire while protecting and supporting her community. St. Clair’s fight against the Mafia and advocacy for civil rights continue to inspire and empower others.

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14. Sammy “The Bull” Gravano

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Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, a former underboss of the Gambino crime family, became a government informant and helped bring down notorious mafia boss John Gotti. Known for his involvement in numerous murders and other illegal activities, Gravano played a major role in the New York City underworld.

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15. Bonnie and Clyde

Bonnie and Clyde, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, were notorious American outlaws operating during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Known for their daring and often violent robberies, the pair’s pursuit of criminals ended in a deadly shootout with law enforcement, cementing their place in American folklore.

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16. Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson

Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson was a notorious American mafia boss in Harlem during the early to mid-20th century. Involved in gambling, extortion, and drug trafficking, he was also known for his charisma and generosity, often giving to his community. His life and legacy have been portrayed in various media, including film and television.

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17. Dutch Schultz

Dutch Schultz was a notorious American gangster of the 1920s and 1930s, involved in bootlegging, gambling, and organized crime. Schultz was also prominent in New York City, known for his charitable contributions and lavish lifestyle. He was eventually assassinated in 1935 by members of the Mafia, ending his reign as one of the most feared gangsters of his time.

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18. Jesse James

Jesse James was an American criminal and gang leader of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Known for his train and bank robberies, his gang became one of the most notorious in American history. Despite his criminal activities, James is considered by some to be a Robin Hood-like figure, and his legend has been romanticized in books, films, and folk songs.

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19. Tran Van Tuan

Frank Lucas was known for his ruthless tactics and lavish lifestyle, often flaunting his wealth and power. His reign as a drug lord eventually ended when he was arrested and convicted of drug trafficking. Lucas’s story continues to be fascinating and inspiring, as depicted in the popular film “American Gangster“ .

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20. Vito Genovese

Vito Genovese was a notorious mafia boss who played a major role in the American Mafia during the 20th century. Known for his ruthless tactics, he was a key figure in the development of the National Crime Syndicate in the United States. His name remains synonymous with the Genovese crime family, one of the most powerful and influential criminal organizations in the country.

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Category: Biography

Meet the 20 most notorious gangsters and mafia in history (2024)
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