In the male dominated crime industry, there is something intriguing about any story of women heading a cartel or operating a mob. We assume most, if not all, violent crimes are orchestrated by men, but these following dangerous, powerful and rich female crime lords have proved time after time that this is not always the case.
Where men seek to gain power from their operations, women are motivated mostly by financial gain and these following female crime lords were often bringing home more cash than their male rivals. But does crime really pay? There are many, including former female bosses themselves, who would argue otherwise.
Living the high life, with an endless disposable income can come with its downside – bloody gang wars, constant threats to their family and the police always on their tail just waiting to throw them behind bars. This was just a day-to-day occurrence for these following original bad girls.
15. Raffaella “Big Female Kitten” D’Alterio
In 2012, 46-year-old Raffaella D’Alterio, a.k.a “Big Female Kitten” was arrested and held on allegations of extortion, possessing illegal arms, robbery and dealing drugs. More than $10 million worth of possessions, including luxury cars, were seized during the raids at dawn.
Italian authorities believed D’Alterio took over the Naples’ Camorra gang following the death of her husband, Nicola Pianese, who was gunned down six years earlier during a gang war. The Camorra gang is responsible for more than 4,000 deaths in 30 years and when D’Alterio was promoted to ‘Mafia Godmother’ the blood shed continued. She operated a wide international criminal network, profiting from drug trafficking, counterfeit money trafficking, and construction. Authorities believe the Camorra gang is worth a staggering $130 billion.
Currently still awaiting sentencing, her lawyers argued, “Being the wife of a boss does not automatically make you a criminal or the leader of a clan. My client Raffaella has one conviction for a false statement to the council.” The remainder of her convictions will come soon enough.
14. Delfina and María de Jesús González
Mexican gangsters Delfina and María de Jesús González were two sisters from Guanajuato who between the 1950s to the mid-1960s operated the “Rancho El Ángel” – a large prostitution ring that has since been directly linked to at least 91 murders.
The shocking siblings finally caught the attention of the police when a woman named Josefina Gutiérrez was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping many young girls in the Guanajuato area. Guitiérrez coughed up the names of the González sisters and led the police to their property in San Francisco del Rincón. At the property, they found all the disturbing evidence they needed – the bodies of 80 women, 11 men, and many fetuses.
The González sisters placed adverts for housemaids and when young girls applied they were held hostage after being forced to take heroin. Once they became too ill to work for the sisters they were killed and replaced with more victims. The sisters were sentenced to 40-years in prison and they hold the Guinness World Record for the “most prolific murder partnership”.
13. Maria “La Chata” Leon
In 2009, Maria “La Chata” Leon pleaded guilty to two counts of racketeering and conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine. The mother-of-13 got off lightly on charges considering her cartel was connected to murder, extortion, home invasion, and witness intimidation. Her three sons, Jose Martinez, Jesus Martinez, Francisco and Nicolas Real, were also indicted on the charges.
She was also closely associated to The Avenues, a gang who started as a social club for Hispanic youths to protect themselves from crime in the area but their own violent actions spiraled out of control. In 20 years, they had been responsible for more than 100 murders including the death of a 3-year-old girl who was sat in a car that took a wrong turn into their territory.
Assistant United States Attorney, Christopher Brunwin, told the court, “(Leon) was at the center of an organization with her family and as it grew it became more dangerous. She has the responsibility for fostering the environment.”
12. Jemeker “Queen Pin” Thompson
During the crack epidemic in America in the 1980s, Jemeker “Queen Pin” Thompson made a lot of money through drug trafficking. Her criminal career started at a young age after being evicted from her home, she met an older man named Anthony M. “Daff” Mosley and the two decided to enter the drug’s trade so they could make cash fast. They later married and had one son together, but several months later Daff was killed as he washed his car, leaving Thompson alone.
Her downfall came when she teamed up with a man known as “Cheese”. He was untrustworthy and eventually ratted Thompson out to authorities causing her to flee L.A. and go into hiding. Authorities eventually caught up with her and she was sentenced to 13 years in a maximum-security prison.
Since spending time on the inside, the former “Queen Pin” has found God and delivers motivational talks as an evangelical minister. She believes, “I’m here today to tell somebody else that you don’t have to do what I did. You don’t have to be like the other kids in the neighborhood. I had a second chance.”
11. Santokben “The Godmother” Jadega
Before 1986, Santokben Jadega was a housewife and mother to four sons. Then everything changed, her husband, Sarman Munja Jadeja, was killed in cold blood during a bloody gang war and she wanted vengeance. She later revealed, “I am a mother and wanted security for me and my children after their father’s murder. They (gangsters) were harassing us; we did what had to be done for saving ourselves.”
Jadega turned to a life of crime and became known as “The Godmother” and had direct links to Porbandar’s Mafia. She was responsible for the deaths of 14 people – all of which she believed had directly caused or were linked to the murder of her husband. In 2007, her name made the headlines again following the murder of Navghan Arsi in Porbandar. The police told the press, “It’s kind of a gang war. The (witness) says a heated exchange resulted in firing and stabbing. Police investigation is on to know whether the incident was fuelled by any past rivalry.”
10. Marllory “Queen of the South” Chacon Rossell
43-year-old Marllory Chacon Rossell, also known as the Queen of the South, ran one of the largest drug trafficking and money laundering rings in Guatemalan before she finally surrendered to US authorities in 2014. In return for her surrender, the judge granted that her release date would be kept a secret to protect her own personal safety because well, let’s just say Rossell had a lot of enemies.
The US Treasury Department described her as “one of the most prolific narcotics traffickers in Central America” and according to the BBC she was also “the most active money launderer in Guatemala.” Insight Crime also reported that Rossell orchestrated regular cocaine shipments of 1,200 kilos from Honduras to Florida – which according to The Economist would be worth an estimated $1.8 million per shipment.
9. Phoolan “The Bandit Queen” Devi
Phoolan “The Bandit Queen” Devi became a female-Robin Hood figure and a feminist legend. Born in 1963 in a small village on the Yamuna River, India, she grew up in a household surrounded by extreme poverty, where young women were a burden for the family, her older husband abused her as a child, and eventually she turned to a life of crime.
A gang was ordered to kill her because she was a “troublemaker” but they refused because she was a girl. Instead, she lived with them in the forest and eventually fell in love with the leader of the gang and they married. Later, a rival gang kidnapped her, locked her in a room for three weeks and repeatedly attacked her. Devi finally managed to escape but she wanted revenge. She rallied her men together, returned to the village where she was attacked, lined the 21 men against a wall and ordered them to be shot.
She was later arrested but the Samajwadi Party dropped all charges against her. In 1994, she stood election to parliament as a candidate for the Samajwadi Party and she was elected twice. In 2001, she was shot dead at the gates of her home by rival bandits who refused to forgive her previous murders.
8. Anna “The Manhattan Madam” Gristina
Anna “The Manhattan Madam” Gristina operated a high-end prostitution ring from her New York City apartment until she finally pleaded guilty in 2012. Her criminal activities were uncovered when she was caught red-handed during a police sting operation.
Gristina took the plea deal as she refused to reveal the identity of the male who was her counterpart during the operation. She told Dr. Phil during an interview, “I don’t want to turn on a friend. (She took the plea) so that nobody else gets hurt, no other families get destroyed. I have a deep sense of loyalty and I’m Scottish. It was the way I was raised. Your word is everything. I’m not going to hurt someone with a family.” She added, “I’m not going to put the nail in the coffin of someone who is very dear to me.”
In ten years, her prostitution ring turned over more than $15 million as she supplied “educated and well-groomed” girls (some underage) for wealthy men. She also claimed the most amount of money she ever made was during Superbowl weekends.
7. Sandra “Queen of the Pacific” Avila Beltran
Mexican drug cartel leader Sandra Avila Beltran, known as “La Reina del Pacífico” (The Queen of the Pacific), managed to avoid arrest until 2007 as she hid behind her butter-wouldn’t-melt persona. Behind the facade, she was a successful money launderer and seller of illegal firearms. The DEA considered her an important link between the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico and the Norte del Valle Cartel in Colombia.
She was finally caught when she called the police after her teenage son was kidnapped for a $5 million ransom. She claimed that she earned a “little money on the side selling clothes and renting houses.” This story didn’t wash with police officials as they wondered why such a low-income household would have criminals demanding a $5 million ransom. Her son was safely returned but a four-year-long investigation by authorities eventually led to her arrest.
6. Shashikala “Baby” Patankar
In the 1980s, Shashikala “Baby” Patankar worked as a milk vendor before she became a hardened criminal. She began selling Marijuana before moving to distribute the drug Mephedrone and at the time of her arrest she was in possession of more than 12kg of the drug. Her boyfriend, police constable Dharmraj Kalokhe, was also arrested and charged with possession after the drug was found in his locker at work – he was later dismissed from duty.
Baby’s cover-up story that she was renting cars didn’t wash with the authorities. An Indian crime branch officer told the Hindustan Times, “It is clear that the money found in her accounts was earned from drugs as making such profits from a business of renting out four-wheelers is not possible.” A spokesperson for Mumbai police also added, “We have found receipts of gold in her name amounting to several lakhs but are yet to find any gold.”
Following her arrest in 2015, she is still currently awaiting sentencing as police officials intend to gather as much hard evidence against Baby as possible.
5. Thelma “Cocaine Kingpin” Wright
In 1986, Jackie Wright, who transported cocaine and heroin between Los Angeles and Philadelphia, was shot in the head and his body was found rolled up in a rug. His wife, Thelma “Cocaine Kingpin” Wright had a choice – she could either leave the criminal underworld behind and start a new life with their young son or take over the business herself.
Wright explained, “(Jackie) took care of us, loved his son. If he was around, nothing could happen. People are assuming Jackie left me all this money. Nope. I got this child. I can’t lay down and die, so we just resumed business as normal. Made a lot of money. A lot of money.”
During the height of her career, she was making around $400,000 in profit every month. She revealed, “I can tell you I made a lot of money. You know in The Godfather when they say, ‘It’s a lot of money in that white powder’? It was a lot of money in that.” In 1991, she was caught in the crossfire of a gang shootout and was almost killed. She now helps women who struggle with addiction and published a memoir, With Eyes From Both Sides – Living My Life In and Out of the Game.
4. Rosetta”Ice Eyes” Cutolo
Authorities believe Rosetta “Ice Eyes” Cutolo operated a mob in Ottaviano, Naples, for her brother, Raffaele Cutolo, who was serving a life sentence in a Sardinian prison. It is believed that her brother, the head of the Nuova Camorra Organizzata (NCO), was handing his sister instructions from behind bars.
Before her arrest, Rosetta had been traced by police who followed her around the world and almost couldn’t keep up. An official of the state police in Rome told The Independent, “She had been followed around the world, protected by gangsters but in the end we succeeded in arresting her. (She) had made frequent trips in South America, first in Brazil, then in Venezuela near the border with Colombia. The woman, a real crime manager, moved continually, even in Italy, to keep her eye on various activities.”
In 1993, she finally handed herself in saying, “I am tired of being a fugitive.” She was sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of Mafia association, which was later reduced to five years, and following her release has kept a low profile.
3. Maria “The Godmother” Licciardi
Maria “The Godmother” Liccardi was the undisputed boss and head of the Licciardi clan, who were closely affiliated with the Camorra, in the city of Naples until her arrest in 2001. Known affectionately within her own clan as “The Princess”, she controlled drug trafficking and the extortion rackets throughout the many suburbs of Naples.
Before Licciardi came to power, the clan were forbidden from profiting through prostitution but when she was made boss all that changed. She would buy girls from the Albanian mafia for $2,000, promising them work and riches. But when they arrived, they were enslaved and forced into work – often put on drugs to stop them from escaping. When they became too old to work, she would order for them to be killed.
Following the outbreak of a gang war, Licciardi became a fugitive and was placed on the “30 Most Wanted Italians” list. In 2001, the police finally caught up with her and her criminal career was forced to come to an end.
2. Claudia “The Kim Kardashian of Crime” Ochoa Felix
Mexican model and crime boss Claudia Ochoa Felix came to the attention of the public after she posted updates on social media surrounded by her riches and holding an AK-47. She was known as “The Kim Kardashian of Crime” and was a high-ranking leader of the murder squad Los Ántrax, who worked as enforcers allied to the Sinaloa Cartel.
Following the arrest of Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman in 2016, who had escaped prison and was recaptured, it was believed that her gang would start a bloody turf war – risking the lives of hundreds. Drug policy expert and Mexico crime author Nathan Jones told the Houston Chronicle, “If (El Chapo) is extradited, he could lose significant operational control over proxies. It is possible sub-networks such as Los Antrax could potentially break free and into internecine conflict with the Sinaloa Cartel.”
1. Griselda “The Cocaine Godmother” Blanco
Before Pablo Escobar, there was Griselda “The Cocaine Godmother” Blanco. In 1954, she started her criminal career at the age of just 11-years-old when she kidnapped a local boy from the rich neighborhood and held him captive in the slums where she lived. When the boy’s parents refused to pay the $1,000 ransom, she shot him in the head.
During the 1970s, she became the leader of the feared Medellín Cartel. Her cartel was involved in the gangland violence and the distribution of cocaine to the U.S. It’s estimated that her cartel was bringing home more than $80 million and her violent way of doing things brought in $80 million each month and it was her violent style of doing business that led to many bloody territory wars.
In 1985, she was sentenced to a decade in jail but still continued to run her operation from behind bars. In 2004, she was deported back to Colombia where she went into hiding until 2012 when a drive-by shooter killed her in Medellín, Colombia.
Sources: biography.com, crimefeed.com