Being rich and famous seems like a walk in the park. You have plenty of money to do whatever you want, you have amazing fans who pay to see your movies, hear your music, or buy your products, and you get to go to cool events all over the world. Essentially, being rich and famous means you’re living the dream, 24/7, right? Maybe for some, but for others, it can be a nightmare. Being a wealthy public figure means having adoring fans…but it also means there are some crazy people out there who would do anything to get to you and your money. Over the past few decades, many people from rich families have been kidnapped, held for ransom, and even worse simply because they came from a wealthy background, and the kidnappers wanted a piece of it. Scary, right? Here are 15 people from wealthy families who were kidnapped.
15. Jennifer Hudson’s Family: Close Family Ties
You probably remember Jennifer Hudson from her days on American Idol. She may not have won, but she impressed the crowd with her amazing vocals, and she later went on to win an Oscar for the film Dream Girls. However, Jennifer’s success was not all sunshine and roses. Shortly after her rise to popularity, a tragic event struck her family. Jennifer’s sister had married a violent man, William Belfour, and he took out his anger on Jennifer’s relatives in 2008. This man kidnapped her 57-year-old mother Darnell, her 29-year-old brother Jason, and her 7-year-old nephew Julian. He held them hostage, and then shot and killed them. He was sentenced to three life terms in prison after being charged with three counts of first degree murder. Jennifer and the rest of her family was stunned and saddened by this news, and they created The Hudson-King Foundation for Families of Slain Victims in response.
14. Charles Lindbergh, Jr.; Right From The Crib
Charles Lindbergh was a famous aviator, in fact, you may remember learning about him in school because he was the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. His achievements were very remarkable back in the 1930s. But Charles was not just a pilot/ he was also a father. However, his fame made his family a target. Tragedy struck in 1932 when Lindbergh’s son was kidnapped. Charles Lindbergh Jr. was stolen from his crib in his family’s home at the age of only 20 months old. The kidnapper left a note demanding a ransom of $50,000 and told the Lindberghs not to involve the authorities. Naturally, the news spread like wildfire since Lindbergh was such a well-known public figure. But unfortunately for Lindbergh and his family, this could not save his young son. Richard Hauptmann was eventually identified and charged with the murder of the Lindbergh baby.
13. Frank Sinatra, Jr.: Safe And Sound
You’ve probably heard a few of Frank Sinatra’s hit songs before, he was one of the best selling artists of the 20th century, and your mom probably has a few of his CDs lying around the house! Frank was so well-known that the safety of his family was put in danger. Frank had a son named after himself, and when Frank Jr. was kidnapped, the whole world was paying attention to see just what would happen to the Sinatra family. He had just turned 19-years-old when he was abducted by three men- Barry Keenan, Johnny Irwin, and Joe Amster in 1968. They abducted him from his hotel room and held him captive for two days. They demanded a ransom of $240,000 from Frank Sinatra, which he paid, desperate to have his son back. Thankfully, his son was returned safely after the payment, and the men who were responsible were all arrested.
12. Patty Hearst: Feeding California
If you read magazines, chances are you’ve picked up a few put out by the Hearst publishing company. Hearst is a publishing giant, and the man who established the company, William Randolph Hearst, was very wealthy. This made his daughter, Patty, a high-profile target for a group of people who kidnapped her. When Patty was 19, she was kidnapped, taken from her apartment, and beaten. A left-wing organization called the SLA was responsible for the kidnapping. They demanded that her father give $70 worth of food to every underprivileged family in California, or they would keep his daughter, which would have been a sum of $400 million. Hearst donated $2 million instead, but this was not enough to satisfy the group. Patty then decided to become a member of the SLA. However, this strategy also backfired, she attempted to rob a bank for them and was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
11. John Paul Getty III: The Boy Who Cried Wolf
Some of the wealthiest men in history have been oil tycoons. They can have net worths of billions of dollars, and therefore, it’s easy to see why people would target their families for ransom money. This is exactly what happened to Jean Paul Getty, an oil tycoon. His grandson, Jean Paul Getty, was kidnapped in 1973, and the kidnappers demanded a huge ransom of $17 million. However, the family did not take it seriously at first because Jean had joked about faking his own kidnapping before! Therefore, the search took longer than anticipated. But when it became clear that the situation was serious, John Paul’s father asked Jean for the money, only to be refused. The kidnappers then sliced off John Paul’s ear and mailed it to the family, saying that this would continue until the ransom was paid. Jean Paul finally paid up, and John Paul was safely returned.
10. Bobby Greenlease: Money Wasn’t Enough
Many people think that if someone is looking for a ransom, they’ll give back whatever they took if you just pay up. And in some cases, that’s exactly what happens, someone is kidnapped, the family forks over the ransom money, and the person returns home safely. But that is not always how the story ends. Just look at the tragic case of Bobby Greenlease. Bobby’s father wasn’t as well-known as some of the other people on this list, but he was a wealthy auto dealer who owned a string of dealerships across America in the 1950s. Bobby was kidnapped after school by Bonnie Heady, who said she was his aunt. Even though his father paid the ransom for his release, another kidnapper working with Bonnie, Carl Austin Hall, shot Bobby. This was devastating for Bobby’s family, especially since they had done everything they could to get their son back safely.
9. Ivan Kaspersky: All On Their Own
At some point, you may have downloaded Kaspersky antivirus software for your laptop. The company was started by Evgeny Kaspersky, a Russian software tycoon with an enormous amount of money. Naturally, his family was a target for those looking for cash. In 2011, his son, Ivan, was kidnapped. The kidnappers went on to demand $3.7 million for ransom. Evgeny decided not to fight them, and just give in to their demands. With his net worth of $700 million dollars, that big ransom was a small price to pay for his son’s safe return. Evgeny also kept the police at arm’s length throughout the process and chose to deal with the kidnappers on his own. Some think this is what kept his son alive, as the kidnappers may have felt less threatened by authority. Evgeny also may have been suspicious of the police, police forces in Russia can be quite corrupt in some areas.
8. Victor Li: Richest Man On Earth
Imagine if you were one of the richest people on Earth. Life couldn’t be easier, right? You would never have to worry about anything ever again, and you could do whatever you wanted. And even if something bad were to happen, you could probably just throw some money at the problem to make it go away. Well, that’s exactly what Li Ka Shing had to do back in 1996. Li Ka Shing is one of the richest men on the planet, with a net worth of a whopping $30 billion dollars. But all that money was apparently not enough to keep his family protected with proper security. In 1996, his son Victor Li was kidnapped by a man known only as “The Big Spender.” “The Big Spender” lived up to his name and demanded a huge ransom from Li Ka Shing, $134 million dollars, to be exact. And he paid up!
7. Graeme Thorne: The First Ever
The first known kidnapping for ransom in Australian history occurred in 1960. Graeme Thorne was only eight years old when he was kidnapped after leaving for school on a typical morning. Why was he taken? Well, his father had recently won the lottery. He had won 100,000 pounds in the Australian lottery, and the story was published in newspapers across the country. After his information was known, his family became a target. When Graeme was kidnapped, the police responded very quickly, and the kidnapper told them that he demanded 25,000 pounds in ransom money. But it was too late, the kidnapper was really out for blood, not money. Graeme’s body was found over a month later, and all hope was lost. This case shocked Australians across the country because nothing like it had ever happened there before. The criminal, Stephen Bradley, was eventually found, captured, and arrested, and charged for Graeme’s death.
6. Jakub Fiszman: Just A Rich Man
It’s easy to see why someone who is both rich and famous could be the target of a kidnapping. After all, they are very well-known, so it’s easy to track their comings and goings. But in some cases, just having enough money in your bank account is enough to put a target on your back. That was the case for Jakub Fiszman, a millionaire German businessman. Jakub was no celebrity, but it was easy enough to see that he was wealthy. On October 1, 1996, Jakub was taken from the building where he worked. He was injured in the process, and the kidnappers demanded a ransom of four million Deutsche Marks, which was the German currency at the time. Even though they received their ransom, the kidnappers finished Jakub anyway. They were eventually caught, and nearly two years later, one perpetrator was sentenced to life in prison. The other took his own life.
5. Marion Parker: The Fox And The Hound
As you can see from some of the previous entries on this list, being a banker can easily make you the target of a kidnapper. In the 1920s, Perry Parker was a very successful banker in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, his wealth ended up posing a danger to his family. His daughter Marion Parker was abducted at the age of 12. Her kidnapper, William Edward Hickman, picked her up from school, saying that her father was in danger and that he was an employee of her father’s bank. He than captured Marion and sent his father notes asking for $1,500 in $20 gold certificates from her father, referring to himself only as “The Fox.” After an attempt to pay the ransom, Hickman still did the worst to Marion. The discovery of her death was so gruesome that it absolutely stunned the community. When Hickman was eventually arrested, he pleaded insanity, but he received the death penalty.
4. Adolph Coors III: A Manhunt For Justice
Coors is the cheap beer staple of college parties, and while it may not be the classiest beverage on the market, that hasn’t stopped the family behind the Coors company from raking in the wealth over the past few decades. But accumulating this money spelled trouble for Adolph Coors III, who was the grandson of Adolph Coors and the heir to the entire Coors company. Naturally, he was worth a lot of money. In 1960, Coors was on his way to work when he was kidnapped by a criminal who had escaped from prison, Joseph Corbett. Corbett later killed him, and his body was not found until months later. Corbett managed to remain out of the eyes for a long time, and finding him turned from a local search into an international manhunt. Eventually, he was finally caught a month after Coors’ body was found. He had fled to Canada.
3. Virginia Piper: Largest Ransom At The Time
Have you ever daydreamed about marrying a rich man? You know you’re not supposed to admit it, but let’s be real, most women wonder what it would be like at some point. But have you ever considered the downsides of marrying a rich guy? Well, in some cases, you might be the victim of a jealous woman’s angst or a frightening kidnapper. Virginia Piper was married to a successful investor, and while she may have enjoyed the perks, it was a rocky road. In 1972, Virginia was kidnapped. The kidnappers just wanted some of her husband’s money. They demanded that her husband hand over $1 million in cash. At the time, this was the largest recorded ransom ever recorded. However, Harry Piper decided to pay up. After that, Virginia was found chained to a tree, but luckily, she was still alive. Two of the kidnappers were caught and convicted, but didn’t go to jail.
2. Samuel Bronfman the 2nd: Could Have Been Staged
As you may have noticed from a few previous entries, children whose parents run major corporations can often be at risk from the general public. Take the case of Samuel Bronfman. Samuel is the son of Edgar Bronfman, who was the founder and president of the Seagram corporation. He was kidnapped on August 9, 1975, and then held for ransom. The kidnappers made Samuel record his own ransom message to send to his father, in which he asked for $2.3 million. There were some theories that Bronfman had orchestrated the kidnapping himself for publicity, but when the tapes were listened to, the kidnappers could clearly be heard demanding Samuel to speak. This piece of evidence basically cleared Samuel as innocent. The father paid, but Samuel was not returned after. Eventually, one of the kidnappers cracked and revealed to the police where Bronfman was hidden, and they came in to rescue him.
1. Walter Kwok: Back At It
Wow, being the son of a successful business man sounds like it would be a pretty sweet life, but judging by some of the entries on this list, it’s actually quite a dangerous occupation. Kwok Tak Seng was one of the most well-known and successful businessman in Hong Kong. His son, Walter Kwok, was kidnapped in 1997. You may recognize the name of the kidnapper from earlier on the list-does the title “The Big Spender” sound familiar? He was the same man who kidnapped Victor Li. When “The Big Spender” demanded ransom, Walter’s family actually did not want to pay up. Eventually, they changed their minds and handed over the money. It was only after the ransom was paid that Walter was found alive. He had been stuffed into a wooden box in a rural area of China when he was discovered. The kidnapping lead to many problems for the family and their company.
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