When you think terrifying criminal mastermind, you don't normally think of a woman. Of course, women are capable of everything that men are, but typically men are more prone to the violent, controlling, power hungry behaviour it requires to be a feared criminal. Men are more ruthless, and able to inspire fear in their enemies, but sometimes a woman can do the same thing.
Just like in the animal kingdom, there are some circumstances where the matriarch is the one in charge. Women are often known for their ability to demand respect and loyalty, and in the criminal world, those are valuable traits. Every mob family and drug cartel needs a leader who can keep all the minions in line, and be heartless enough to do what needs to be done when necessary. Also, simply being a woman might offer a little built-in protection from police scrutiny.
Here are 15 of the most dangerous female criminals the world has ever seen.
15 Sandra Ávila Beltrán
Dubbed "The Queen of the Pacific" by the media, Sandra Ávila Beltrán is a Mexican drug cartel leader who was born into a family with drug cartel ties. Both her husbands, former police commanders turned drug traffickers, were killed by hired assassins.
She wasn't even on the DEA's radar until she asked authorities for help finding her son who had been kidnapped and held for a $5 million ransom. It took authorities 4 years to gather enough evidence to arrest her on drug and money laundering charges. She was released from prison this past February after spending the last eight years behind bars.
14 Griselda Blanco
Griselda Blanco, also known as the Black Widow and the "Cocaine Grandmother" was a drug lord of the infamous Medellin cartel and a big part of the Miami-based cocaine drug trade during the 1970's and early 80's. She was an integral part of the Miami Drug War, or the "Cocaine Cowboy Wars". She was making $80 million a month with her country-wide distribution network, and she wasn't afraid to use violence against her competitors.
Multiple attempts were made on her life until she was arrested in 1985, and she continued to run her drug business from prison. She was deported back to Colombia in 2004, and in 2012, she was killed in a drive by shooting in her hometown of Medellin.
13 Claudia Ochoa Felix
Claudia Ochoa Felix is known as the "Mexican Kim Kardashian" because of not only her appearance, but her social media presence. She has over 35k followers on Twitter and Instagram where she posts photos of her luxurious lifestyle and custom made AK-47s.
Rumors have been swirling that she's the new boss of “Los Antrax,” whose members include ruthless hitmen who work for the Sinaloa cartel, but they can't be confirmed yet. She's denied the allegations on Twitter and the Mexican authorities haven't launched an investigation against her yet, but it could only be a matter of time.
12 Rosetta Cutolo
Also known as "Ice Eyes", Rosetta Cutolo was the older sister Raffaele Cutolo, the head of Nuova Camorra Organizzata, a notorious Italian criminal organization. Since Raffaele spent the majority of his adult life behind bars, he had to leave day to day operations to Rosetta. She and her brother often argued over his love of attention, because she preferred to keep a low profile.
Rosetta was good at negotiating, and she was often involved with meetings that included the Sicilian mafia, and South African cocaine dealers. She was arrested in 1993 and convicted on Mafia-related charges, but her brother always maintained she was completely ignorant of the seriousness of the things he asked her to do. She also managed to get acquitted of nine different murder charges by persuading authorities she was harmless.
11 Raffaella D'Alterio
When Nicola Pianese was murdered in 2006, his wife, Raffaella D'Alterio (nicknamed a "miciona" or "big female kitten" in Italian), took over the Camorra clan. This wasn't a scary position for her to take on as Raffaella was no stranger to violence either. She was even shot three years into her position as leader and survived. The reason for the shooting was rival gangs targeting her over her control of lucrative drug cartels in the crime ridden southern city of Naples.
Raffaella was arrested in 2012 on charges of extortion for robbery and dealing drugs and possession of illegal arms.
10 Anna Gristina
Anna Gristina is known as the "Millionaire Madame" or the "Soccer Mom Madame" and she may not be dangerous in the sense that she is a violent killer, but she knows the deep dark secrets of some very powerful people, making her a threat to reputations everywhere. Gristina was arrested in 2012 for running a call girl business and although she originally promised to never reveal the names in her little black book, her resolve started to waver under pressure from prosecutors.
She served her time in prison, and is now working on a dating website, a book, and she even hopes to have a movie made about her life.
9 Charmaine Roman
When Charmaine Roman was arrested in 2013, authorities believed she was somehow involved in a Jamaican drug trafficking ring. But they figured out pretty quick that Roman wasn't just involved-- she was in charge. Prosecutors alleged that Roman's group brought thousands of pounds of marijuana into Florida, and had a reputation for doing business violently.
Roman was in charge of bookkeeping, and was laundering most of the drug money through a local casino and a business called Sure Thing Investments. She had been living in the U.S illegally for 20 years when she was charged with racketeering and marijuana trafficking.
8 Jemeker Thompson
During the 1980s crack epidemic in Los Angeles, California"Queen Pin" Jemeker Thompson rose to the top of the cocaine trade. After her boyfriend turned her in she went on the run for 2 years before being arrested at her son's 6th grade graduation ceremony in 1993. She was arrested, charged, and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Thompson was released in 2005, and after finding God while behind bars, she became an evangelist minister with the goal of showing people that God can forgive, and everyone gets a second chance to turn their life around.
7 Anna Chapman
Anna Chapman was arrested in 2010 as one of ten Russian sleeper agents who had been sent to the U.S to gain access to national intelligence. Chapman was skilled at using her looks and her sexuality to influence people and get information, and after she was sent back to Russia is a prisoner swap deal with the U.S, she became known as a "femme fatale" and even appeared on the cover of the Russian edition of Maxim magazine.
She was almost like a real life version of a Bond girl, but it was unclear how successful she was in gathering information about the U.S for Russia. She plead guilty to a conspiracy charge, but she now enjoys her celebrity status in Russia.
6 Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme
Lynette Fromme was one of Charles Manson's closest associates, but she had no involvement in the infamous 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders. Instead, she gained notoriety after she pulled a gun on President Gerald Ford in 1975. The Secret Service stopped her before she could fire it, and she was sentenced to life in prison. She escaped from prison on 1987 in an attempt to see Manson, but was recaptured and remained incarcerated until she was granted parole in 2009.
Clearly anyone under Charles Manson's spell had the potential to be extremely dangerous, and Fromme was no exception.
5 Samantha Lewthwaite
Known as "White Widow", Samantha Lewthwaite is one of the Western world's most wanted terrorism suspects. She has been accused of causing the deaths of more than 400 people, is wanted by Interpol, and is believed to be in Syria helping ISIL with beheading videos.
Raised a Christian in the U.K., she converted to Islam when she was 17, and married Germaine Lindsay, the man responsible for the July 7th, 2015 suicide bombing in London. Lewthwaite herself has since been involved in various terrorist attacks and has been reported to be training women to become suicide bombers.
4 Fanette Umuraza
According to the Spiegel Online, "Colonel Fanette Umuraza is a senior member of both the military and political wing of Congolese Tutsi rebel group, M23". Growing up in a Rwandan refugee camp, Umuraza earned a degree before joining M23. While she sees herself as a military leader, according to the Human Rights Watch, some of the crimes the group commits include murder, and the forced recruitment of children. And she's in charge.
While her soldiers are committing those crimes, Umuraza spends her time relaxing, getting manicures and accepting interviews that make her out to be some sort of feminist. Many sources claim that she acts like she's helping women become empowered when in reality she's no better than any other rebel group leader who just wants to hold all the power.
3 Enedina Arellano Felix
Also known as "The Boss", "The Godmother" and "The Narco-mother", Enedina Arellano Felix became the leader of the infamous Tijuana cartel because all her brothers were either dead or in jail. She has attempted to steer the cartel in the direction of profit over violence, but she still relies on kidnappings to get her message across.
Felix has the distinction of being called the world's first female drug lord by the DEA and so far she has been able to evade prosecution.
2 Thelma Wright
Jackie Wright was a major player in the Philadelphia drug game until he was murdered in 1986. His widow, Thelma Wright then became the gangster queen of Philadelphia, transporting cocaine and heroin between Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Thelma decided to take over the business to support herself and her son, and before long she was making $400,000 a month in profit.
Wright was never arrested. Instead she left the drug world behind in 1991 and turned her life around. She has since written a book about her experiences entitled, "With Eyes From Both Sides - Living My Life In and Out of the Game".
1 Maria Licciardi
Maria Licciardi was the undisputed boss of the Camorra clan in the city of Naples from 1993 until her arrest in 2001. Despite her small size (one of her nicknames was "La Piccolina" or "The Little Girl"), she demanded respect. She was born into the criminal lifestyle with a father and brother who were well known local gangsters. Her husband was also a Camorrista. Under Licciardi's leadership, the Secondigliano Alliance (an alliance of Camorra clans) became more organized, secretive, sophisticated and therefore more powerful.
It was also under her leadership that Camorra clans began making money from prostitution. Underage girls were purchased from the Albanian mafia, and forced into drugs and prostitution after being promised a better life. Once they got too old they would be killed to ensure they would never become police informants.