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10 Most Notorious Criminals in the History of the FBI4

By Jason Horton

10 Most Notorious Criminals in the History of the FBI

As a culture, we are obsessed with many things – road trips, Hollywood, sports, backyard BBQs, flat-screen TVs, theme parks and big-time crime stories. This is what America means to us. But sometimes, however, some people think the conventions of a civilized society don’t apply to them. And when that sense of Americana is threatened, we let the dogs out – the FBI.

When the FBI is called in, you know it’s serious. Just ask investment banker Celeste Bright, the FBI’s most recent person of interest in the dramatic series by the same name. They may wear suits. They may not flaunt their weapons. But they have the power of an army behind them.

The FBI is called in when a crime reaches a federal level and involves anything from organized crime and corruption to terrorism and civil rights violations. So you can rest assured they are dealing with some wicked criminals. So wicked, in fact, they’ve become infamous. You’ll probably recognize some of them.

Celeste Bright – Person of Interest

1. John Dillinger

John Dillinger was one of the most notorious, and vicious, thieves of Depression-Era America. From September 1933 until July 1934, he and his gang terrorized the Midwest. They killed 10 men, wounded 7 others, robbed banks and police arsenals, and staged 3 jail breaks (one using a piece of wood shaped as a gun). Dillinger was eventually “ratted out” by prostitute Ana Cumpanas when she told the police that he was going to the movies. He was eventually gunned down in an alley near the theatre. If you can’t trust a prostitute, who can you trust?

2. Jim Jones / Jonestown

Religious fanatic Jim Jones was the head of the Peoples Temple, a commune of 900 people in Guyana that would later be known as Jonestown. Family members in California where concerned about the well-being, as well the mental state, of their loved ones living there and filed several letters to their congressman, Leo Ryan. In 1978, Ryan flew down to Jonestown to investigate. Jones initially welcomed Ryan and the reporters he brought with him. However, when some commune members attempted to leave with Ryan, Jones was enraged. Jones sent armed men to the airport to ambush Ryan and the reporters, killing Ryan and a few others. Jones then ordered a mass suicide, of over 900 people, 200 of them children, via cyanide cocktail. Jones took his own life with a handgun.

READ: 10 Things You Didn’t Know about American Cult, Jonestown

3. John Gotti

Also known as the “Teflon Don” for never having a criminal charge to stick to him, Gotti is known for taking over the Gambino crime family in New York City in 1985. Finally in 1990, Gotti was caught on tape for crimes including murder and tax evasion. Gotti was sentenced to life in prison without parole. He died of cancer in prison in June 2002, at 61. For some vivid examples of Gotti’s crimes, follow the character of Johnny Sac, head of the Lupertazzi family, on The Sopranos – he was modeled after the Don himself.

4. Timothy McVeigh / The Oklahoma City Bombing

We have Homeland Security performing airport checks and monitoring suspicious activity in and out of the country – protecting us from attacks from foreign groups. But what we’re still trying to grasp is how to anticipate the acts of Americans on Americans. Timothy McVeigh, a former Army man, left a Ryder truck with explosives parked in front of the Oklahoma Federal Building on April 15th, 1995. He detonated it remotely and leveled the structure – killing 168, including 19 children, with several hundred more injured. After the bombing, the FBI started piecing information together based on the truck’s axle, eventually leading them to McVeigh who stated his actions were in response to the US and their actions at WACO (Texas). He was sentenced to lethal injection.

5. Patty Hearst

In February of 1974, Patty Hearst, granddaughter of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, was kidnapped by a group of armed radicals. These radicals were known as the Symbionese Liberation Army, or SLA. They wanted the country’s attention, and they got it. They demanded millions in food donations in exchange for Patty’s release. Paradoxically, Patty became part of the movement. She was finally captured in San Francisco in September 1975 and was charged with bank robbery and other crimes. Despite claims of brainwashing, the jury found her guilty, and she was sentenced to seven years in prison. She served two years before being pardoned.

6. Al Capone

You cannot discuss “organized crime” or “The Mafia,” or even American culture of the 1920′s and 30′s without mentioning Al Capone. Hollywood classics such as “Scarface,” “The Untouchables” and “The Sopranos” wouldn’t exist without him. He was implicated in several brutal murders and extorted money from businessmen and politicians. His Chicago crime syndicate controlled local gambling and prostitution. Capone was finally indicted in 1931 by a federal grand jury, not for his heinous crimes, but for evasion of income taxes. He was sentenced to an 11-year prison term. In 1939, physically and mentally ravaged by syphilis, Capone was released and subsequently died in 1947.

7. Bonnie & Clyde

If there is a bittersweet anti-hero side to crime, let it be Bonnie Parker & Clyde Barrow. Although most famous as a couple, they actually belonged to a group known as the Barrow Gang, which included Clyde, his brother and her wife, and several others. The gang committed many crimes over the years but is best known for their bank robbery spree between 1932 and 1934. During these robberies they would sometimes kidnap bystanders or law officers. However, they would always release these hostages miles away from the scene of the crime, sometimes with enough money to get home. Barrow and Parker were killed in a police ambush in Bienville Parish, Louisiana in May 1934. She was twenty-three. He was twenty-five.

8. The Black Dahlia Killer

Elizabeth Short, who was given the name “The Black Dahlia” after her death, was the victim of a gruesome and highly publicized murder. Short was found by a mother and daughter; her body severed at the waist, on January 15, 1947, in Leimert Park, Los Angeles, California. Short was in Los Angeles visiting an old boyfriend she met during the war. In the six months prior to her death, she was known to have lived in a variety of locations, never staying in the same place for over two weeks. She had a somewhat troubled past which added to the mystique of Short and the murder itself. Over 50 men and women confessed to the murder of Elizabeth Short. However, the real killer, who exchanged information with the Los Angeles Examiner over several months to keep the crime on the front page, was never caught.

9. Lindbergh Baby / The Lindbergh Kidnapping

One of the most famous FBI-related kidnapping cases is that of the 20 month-old son of the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh and his wife Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The boy was abducted from the Lindbergh home near Hopewell, New Jersey in March of 1932. After a search of the premises, a ransom note demanding $50,000 was found on the nursery window sill. A total of 13 random notes were exchanged over the course of the investigation. The last note stated that the kidnapped child could be found on a boat named “Nellie” near Martha’s Vineyard. On May 12, 1932, the body of the kidnapped baby was accidentally found, partly buried and decomposed, four and a half miles southeast of the Lindbergh home. After more than two years, Bruno Richard Haupmann was arrested and charged with the crime. Hauptmann was found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to death. He was executed on April 3, 1936. Hauptmann proclaimed his innocence until the end. When the evidence was reexamined after his death, his supposed fingerprints from the scene of the crime were nowhere to be found.

10. Management / Enron

Nothing says white-collar crime like Enron. Enron’s growth was rapid and involved everything from pipelines to online commodity trading. In 2000, annual revenue reached $100 billion. It was ranked as the seventh-largest company on the Fortune 500 list and the sixth-largest energy company in the world. In August 2001, Jeffrey Skilling, the company’s CEO, announced his departure. In October 2001, Enron reported a loss of $618 million, its first quarterly loss in almost four years. The investigation into the anomaly would later show that a series of partner companies were designed to hide Enron’s debt. By late November 2001, the company’s stock was down to less than one dollar. Investors lost billions. In December 2001, Enron filed for bankruptcy protection, the biggest case of bankruptcy in the United States up to that point. 5,600 Enron employees subsequently lost their jobs, stock, and pensions. The Justice Department opened an investigation, and Ken Lay quit as chairman and CEO. In January 2004, Andrew Fastow, the company’s CFO, agreed to a plea bargain and a 10 year sentence. Skilling pled not guilty to 40 charges but was found guilty of everything except insider trading. He was sentenced to 24 years and 4 months in prison and fined $45 million. Lay was charged with fraud, but later died on July 5, 2006. His convictions were thrown out on October 17, 2006.

Celeste Bright – TMI

Celeste Bright – The Company She Keeps

Watch more episodes for the crime drama Celeste Bright

Jason Horton is a New Jersey native breaking all the rules in Hollywood. He is an actor, writer, comedian, and improviser performing sketch and improv comedy weekly at both iO West & the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. He is also frequently in the top 100 viewed comedians on YouTube. He also wants pizza, now.

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Must Reads 4/23/2014