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Historical Figures

Top 10 Most Notorious Drug Dealers

Top 10 most notorious drug dealers

The recent recapture of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, after his daring escape from a maximum-security prison, is just another reminder that the drug world is not as exciting as TV shows like to depict it. People die, disappear, are captured, and mutilated all because of drugs. Drugs, despite being illegal in many parts of the world, still manage to find their way into many countries through ingenious and bold methods.

This is a list of some of the world’s most notorious drug lords, responsible for up to 80% of drugs found in the US alone.


10. “Superfly” also known as Frank Lucas

His area of operation was Harlem during the 1960’s and early 1970’s. He built his empire by supplying 98% pure heroine, in the caskets of fallen soldiers from Vietnam. He was mainly known for cutting out middlemen and getting his supply of heroine directly from the Golden Triangle, an area where Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos meet. It is called the Golden Triangle because it produces the largest amount of opium in Asia.

His life was dramatized in the film, “American Gangsta” starring Denzel Washington. He was arrested in 1975 when his house was raided. He is currently serving 70 years behind bars for over 100 drug-related charges.

9. “Dudus” also known as Christopher Coke

Coke is said to have amassed a fortune worth more than $30 billion at the time of his arrest in 2010. He was arrested when he was detained at border patrol where he was found dressed as a woman. He was the leader of the infamous Shower Posse gang. Interestingly, he grew up privileged and rubbing shoulders with prominent politicians’ kids. Once he took over his father’s drug business, he supplied money to the poor, created employment opportunities and set up community centers.

8. “The Cocaine Godmother” also known as Griselda Blanco

Griselda is one of the few women to have made success in trafficking cocaine in various urban centers like Miami, Florida. She began criminal activities at an early age and quickly earned a reputation of being ruthless and street smart. It’s estimated that she was responsible for over 200 murders. Following years’ worth of investigations, Blanco was finally convicted and sent to prison for nearly 20 years. She continued to run her empire from behind bars. She was eventually released in 2004. She died at the age of 69 in 2012, having been gunned down by gunmen on motorcycles. She was featured in various books and documentaries.

7. “Freeway” formerly known as Rick Ross

Not to be confused with music mogul Rick Ross, Ricky Donnell Ross is a convicted American drug trafficker turned author. At the height of his career, Ricky Donnell claimed to be selling $3 million worth of crack daily. He established his drug empire in Los Angeles, California during the 1980’s. In 1996, his partner set him up to purchase 100 kilograms worth of cocaine from an undercover Federal Agent. He was then sentenced to life imprisonment but was released in 2009 after appealing. He later released an autobiography titled Freeway Rick Ross: The Untold Autobiography.

6. “The Cat” also known as Felix Mitchell

Mitchell was a drug lord and leader of the “69 Mob” criminal organization. He operated mainly in California and other parts of the Midwest. His business brought in $5 million annually. He fought for heroine control in the area with other rival gangs. In 1985, he was convicted and set to serve a life sentence in prison. He was fatally stabbed a year later. Thousands turned up on the streets to pay tribute at his funeral procession. It is said that the crowd likened that of Martin Luther King Jr.

5. “Boss of Bosses” also known as Arturo Beltran Leyva

He was the leader of the notorious Mexican gang called the Beltrán Leyva Cartel. As its leader, Levya was responsible for the production, transportation and wholesale of marijuana, cocaine, heroine and methamphetamine. He was killed during a 90-minute shoot-out, by Mexican Navy Intelligence in 2009. The gang was also tied to hundreds of cases of murder, kidnapping, extortion, human smuggling, and torture.

4. “Lord of the Skies” Amado Carrillo Fuentes

Fuentes was nicknamed Lord of the Skies because he had a fleet of 727 jets that he used to smuggle cocaine into the US. He was estimated to be $25 billion at the height of his career. He was transporting 4 times more cocaine to the US than any other smuggler during his time. He was polished and refined and had Mexico’s top law enforcers in his pocket. He died in a Mexican hospital in 1997, while attempting to alter his appearance.

3. “El Mayo” also known as Ismail Zambada Garcia

Originally a farmer from Sinaloa, he is said to head one of the Sinaloa cartel factions. He controls a large portion of the heroine production and exportation into the US. He is still at large and has a $5 million reward for his capture. Even though he is at large, he has suffered the loss of some people in his innermost circle, including two sons and a nephew.

2. “The World’s Greatest Outlaw” also called Pablo Escobar

In 1989, Forbes declared him as the 7th wealthiest man in the world. He amassed a personal fortune worth $30 billion, making him the wealthiest criminal in history. His cartel controlled four-fifths of the world’s cocaine. He established the first smuggling routes in the US in 1975, and by the 1980’s he was smuggling around 80 tons of cocaine into the US monthly.  He was shot dead in 1993, a day after he celebrated his 44th birthday.

1. “El Chapo/Shorty” also called Joaquin Guzman

Of all the drug kingpins on the list, El Chapo is by far the most notorious and the most well-known. He is still alive and boasts of being named the biggest drug lord of all time by the US Drug Enforcement Administration. Interestingly, from 2009 to 2011, Forbes has rated him as one of the most influential people in the world. He was head of the Sinaloa Cartel which transported multi-ton cocaine shipments all the way from Colombia to the US, Europe and Asia. In addition to cocaine, his cartel also disturbed marijuana, heroin and ecstasy. El Chapo was eventually captured in 1993 and was to serve a 20-year sentence in a Mexican prison. He escaped in 2001 by bribing guards. He was arrested for the second time in 2014, but yet again managed to escape in 2015, via a 1.5km tunnel that was dug for his sake. He was recaptured in 2016 and is being held in a maximum security prison in the US awaiting trial.

Most of the drug kingpins on this list have either been captured or are already dead. However, the fight against drugs is far from over, as others have moved in to take these kingpins’ places. There are still law enforcers that work hand in hand with these drug lords, that makes capturing them and bringing down their businesses a lot harder. There have also been incidences where politicians are involved with drug lords, often passing laws and creating loopholes that make it easier for them to move drugs around.


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