The 20 Most Notorious Female Gangsters in History

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When we think of gun-toting gangsters and criminal overlords, we tend to picture men wearing fedoras and wielding Tommy guns or hoarding their riches in luxury mansions. However, history has shown us time and again that women can be more than a match for men in the world of organized crime. Here we profile 20 of the most notorious female gangsters of all time.

20. Sandra Ávila Beltrán

Known as “La Reina del Pacifico,” or “The Queen of the Pacific,” Mexican drug cartel boss Sandra Ávila Beltrán was arrested in 2007. Many believe that this dark-haired beauty’s success in the world of crime can at least partly be attributed to her powers of seduction when it came to dealing with drug traffickers and law enforcement officers alike.

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Image: Gobonobo

19. Ma Barker

As mother to two of the Barker gang, Arizonan Donnie Barker – a.k.a. Ma Barker – was never going to lead a quiet life. Described at the time by J Edgar Hoover as “the most dangerous criminal brain of the last decade,” Barker met her end during a shootout with FBI agents in 1935, although some have suggested that her criminality was overstated to justify this use of deadly force.

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18. Thelma Wright

When Jackie Wright – a significant figure in the 1980s Philadelphia drug trade – was whacked, his widow Thelma was left to care for their son. However, she also took care of her husband’s business, sometimes earning as much as $400,000 a month from heroin and cocaine trafficking. Today, though, she speaks out about the negative effects of crime.

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17. Judy Moran

The Moran family are known across Melbourne, Australia for their criminal connections, and matriarch Judy has seen plenty of bloodshed. After losing both a couple of husbands and a pair of sons to gang violence over the years, in 2001 she was handed a sentence of 26 years behind bars for the murder of her brother-in-law Des Moran.

16. Claudia Ochoa Felix

Claudia Ochoa Felix’s penchant for posing for social media pictures has seen her dubbed “The Kim Kardashian of Organized Crime,” but many believe that this curvy Mexican socialite may actually be one of the deadliest women in the world. Although no police investigation is ongoing, Mexican media have suggested that she is the head of a vicious hit squad known as Los Ántrax.

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15. Rosetta Cutolo

When the head of the Italian Nuova Camorra Organizzata crime syndicate found himself behind bars, he turned to his sister to take care of the operation. For 15 years, Rosetta “Ice Eyes” Cutolo presided over a host of criminal activity, including the trade of drugs and attempted murder. She ultimately surrendered to the police in 1993, reportedly telling officers that she had become tired of life on the run.

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Image: via Lipstick Alley

14. Enedina Arellano Félix

While Enedina Félix’s brothers were helping to establish the Tijuana drug cartel in Mexico, she was studying to be an accountant. However, she took over the family business in 2008 after her brothers had either died or gone to jail, using her business skills to valuable effect. The Drug Enforcement Administration considers her to be the first and only female drugs lord in the world.

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13. Laura Bullion

Most people associate the Wild Bunch gang with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. However, Laura Bullion – sometimes called the Rose of the Wild Bunch – more than held her own in this male-dominated environment. An active member of the gang for many years, she was jailed for her involvement in the Great Northern train robbery of 1901.

12. Maria Leon

As the matriarch of a Los Angeles-based gang with ties to the Mexican mafia, Maria Leon juggled having 13 children with playing a leading role in violence that transformed parts of L.A. into a war zone. She later fled to Mexico but was finally captured as she tried to re-enter the U.S. to go to the funeral of one of her sons.

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11. Maria Licciardi

When her husband and brothers were sent to jail, Maria Licciardi took on the role of head of the Licciardi crime family. Given the nickname “The Godmother” by her gangster peers, Licciardi controlled a network of sex and drug traffickers across Naples before being captured in 2001. In fact, it is suspected that her position as head of the family continues from behind bars.

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Image: via WFTV

10. Charmaine Roman

When a grandmother living in Florida was arrested for assisting a drug trafficking gang, few could have guessed that she would end up getting accused of being the group’s leader. Such, however, was the case. Between 2010 and 2012 Charmaine Roman laundered millions of dollars through a Las Vegas casino on behalf of a Jamaican marijuana trafficking gang.

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9. Raffaella D’Alterio

Raffaella D’Alterio took over control of the Pianese-D’Alterio family and its drug operations in Naples in the wake of her husband’s assassination in 2006. However, having survived a murder attempt by rival gangsters, she was arrested in 2012 on various trafficking and robbery charges.

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8. Pearl Elliott

Pearl Elliott was no gangster’s moll. She controlled a brothel in Kokomo, Indiana for more than a decade from the early 1920s. A member of the notorious Dillinger gang, Elliott made the Chicago Police Department’s Public Enemy list – a dubious honor if ever there were one – in 1933.

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7. Xie Caiping

Another female gangster known as “The Godmother”, Xie Caiping was a leading figure in China’s infamous Triad underworld before her arrest in 2009. During her reign, she funded an extravagant lifestyle featuring luxury villas and toyboy lovers by operating illicit gambling dens.

6. Melissa Calderon

Even in the brutal world of Mexican criminal gangs, Melissa “La China” Calderon’s bloodlust makes her stand out from the crowd. As the alleged leader of the Damaso Cartel’s armed branch, she is reckoned to have headed up a team of over 300 drug dealers and is accused of having been involved in the murders of no less than 150 people.

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5. Jemeker Thompson

Desperate to leave the poverty of her childhood behind her, Jemeker Thompson was drawn to the Los Angeles drug trade in the 1980s. Following her husband’s death, the woman known as “Queen Pin” continued the couple’s crack-trafficking operation and netted herself hundreds of thousands of bucks before her eventual apprehension in 1993.

4. Stephanie St. Clair

In post-Prohibition New York, an unlikely figure took a stand against the mob bosses moving in to claim her turf. Stephanie St. Clair ran one of the top “numbers games” – or illegal lotteries – in Harlem in the early 1920s. She also resisted intimidation by gangsters eager to take over the scene and remained independent – and wealthy – until her death in 1969.

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3. Marllory Chacon Rossell

As the head of one of Central America’s most powerful money laundering and drug trafficking gangs, Marllory Chacon Rossell has held an intimidating reputation. From her base in Guatemala, she oversaw an empire of crime that led to her being labelled by the U.S. Treasury as among “the most prolific narcotics traffickers in Central America.” She was arrested in 2015.

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2. Griselda Blanco

The women of organized crime can be just as ruthless as the men, and “Godmother of cocaine”’ Griselda Blanco was no exception. During the 1970s and 1980s she made billions of dollars through southern Florida’s drug trade, carving out a reputation for violence that saw her convicted of killing three people, including a toddler. Having been deported to Colombia, she was assassinated in 2012.

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1. Bonnie Parker

Quite possibly the most infamous female gangster of them all, Bonnie Parker, together with her lover Clyde Barrow, was a member of the criminal Barrow Gang. From 1932 to mid 1934 Parker helped the gang in a string of bank, store and gas station robberies across the U.S., capturing the people’s imagination in the process. Still, she bit the dust in a hail of police bullets in 1934.

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