Women Who Broke So Bad They Redefined The Word ‘Criminal’

Sometimes you have to say f*ck the rules and work outside the system. You can either fail miserably at this, landing yourself some jail time — or you can be good at it, chipping away at morality and virtue as you amass unheard of wealth. It’s the dark side of capitalism: Everybody’s gotta get some. But it’s the lengths to which you’ll go to get some that’s what ends up defining you as a human.

These women, they got some. They got lots. They stepped so far outside the box that they redefined the word “criminal.” In the parlance of our time, they broke bad. Taking a life, ain’t no thing. Running a cartel, easy-peasy. Stopping entire navies, all in a days work. This isn’t about male and females. It’s about predator and prey. Alphas versus betas. The dark side versus the light.

Heidi Fleiss

Designer Heidi Fleiss Poses At Her Home December 15 1993 In Lo
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The Hollywood Madam is — by far — the most innocuous entry on this list. She hasn’t killed anyone. Fleiss started off in prostitution under the famed Madam Alex in 1987. Sensing that most of Alex’s escorts were eyeing retirement, she broke off and started her own prostitution ring. Within four months, she was a millionaire.

Fleiss focused her business on the high end — millionaires, Hollywood elite, and politicians. Her harem consisted exclusively of young and gorgeous escorts. Within a year she was so successful, she was turning away women who wanted to be escorts for her. A legend was born.

And short lived. Fleiss was arrested in 1993. She posted the million-dollar bail without any problem. A court case ensued and she was eventually convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to seven years. She served 20 months. As the ’90s turned into the aughts, she became a C-list celebrity and reality TV personality. She designed some clothes and even tried to open a brothel in Nevada. Today, she raises birds and grows marijuana in her Nevada home.

Griselda Blanco (La Madrina, The Black Widow, The Godmother)

Yeah, you know who Tony Montana is? Griselda Blanco actually was that in Miami. At 11, young Griselda — desperate for cash — kidnapped a child from a rich neighborhood next to her slum and tried to ransom him. The family wouldn’t pay. Griselda shot the kid. Because even at 11, she did not f*ck around.

In the early ’70s, Blanco moved to Queens with her husband. Within two years, she was running a crew of 30 and smuggling cocaine straight from Medellin to New York. In 1974, she and her crew were busted, but La Madrina was able to escape back to Colombia. Then she came BACK. This time to Miami. Queue the synthpop! Her return and takeover of the territory sparked the Narco wars we see depicted in so many movies.

The Cocaine Cowboys … Griselda.

The CENTAC-26 … created to combat Griselda.

She was making $80 million … wait for it … a MONTH by 1980.

Anyone that got in her way, or even disagreed with her, she killed. Often personally. The cartels just couldn’t take her violence anymore and started turning on her. By 1984, assassination attempts were so commonplace that Blanco fled to California.

In 1985, the DEA finally had enough to arrest Griselda again. This time, she wasn’t able to escape. She was sentenced to 10 years for her crimes in trafficking. They could never make a murder charge stick. Griselda continued ruling her cocaine empire from prison. She even put out hits; one hit on her baby daddy in Colombia. After he was shot in the head, Griselda’s youngest (and only surviving) child was returned to Miami. Of course, his name was Michael Corleone Blanco. Of course, he was a cocaine trafficker. In 2012, Michael was arrested for drug trafficking. Later that year, Griselda was finally assassinated during a drive-by in Medellin thus ending her five-decade reign of terror.

Claudia Ochoa Felix

Claudia Felix is an enigma wrapped up in Twitter, inside an Instagram post. She came to fame as the “Kim Kardashian” of the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico. She paraded her lavish exploits as a member of Los Antrax (or, the Anthrax) hit squad branch of the Cartel on Twitter and Instagram for all to see, and follow.

Yeah, that didn’t go over too well. There is very little to go on about what exactly she does/did within Los Antrax besides kill and climb the hierarchy. Los Antrax has been behind some of the most insane violence in Sinaloa over the past five years, including an assassination carried out at an indoor football match, which led to dozens of killings in the area over the next days.

Claudia is rumored to have taken over the leadership of Los Antrax and is vying for El Chapo’s position as he awaits his fate in the U.S. courts. She also has publicly denounced her involvement in any Mexican Cartel and claimed that everything was a grave misunderstanding. She stopped tweeting in 2014, and has since removed a lot of the incriminating Instagrams as well. Her claim is that she’s just a regular girl posing with guns, stacks of cash, and Dom P. Yet it seems that every person in her way to the Los Antrax leadership is now dead, likely by her hand. Since this is ongoing, I would like to clarify my home address is 123 Fake Street, Springfield, USA.

Belle Gunness

Hell’s Belle’s story starts back in the old country, Norway. Belle was born Brynhild, and around the age of 16, she attended a country dance. The pregnant Brynhild was enjoying herself at the dance when a rich landowner’s son tried to have his way with her. She resisted and he viciously beat her, causing her to miscarry. The rich boy was never prosecuted. Brynhild’s friends claim that the incident changed her personality completely. A week later, the rich boy was dead. Brynhild made her way to Chicago and changed her name to Belle. Once there, her endeavors in insurance fraud started innocently enough with the arson of her failing confectionary. Realizing that insurance was a great way to make some cash, Belle murdered her four infant children for the insurance money… then murdered her husband the one day that his two life insurance policies overlapped. This netted Belle $8,500, or $250,000 in today’s money. Belle would go onto live on an Indiana farm where she’d lure widowed men with big bank accounts to join her in marriage and life, as long as they invested in the farm. She got rich.

Belle’s tricks and schemes caught up with her when she rebuked her farm hand Ray Lamphere. He was in love and wanted her to love him back. Likely impossible. Belle staged another arson and murdered a newly hired housemaid by poisoning her… then beheading her and removing her teeth. Belle pulled out her own teeth and lay them next to the head. Then she chloroformed her three kids and burned down the house. Her escape was perfect. She disappeared into the night with over $6 million in today’s money.

Dozens of bodies were found on Belle’s farm. There was a possible sighting of Belle in California when a woman named Esther Carlson poisoned her husband for insurance money, but they could never prove it was Belle. There have been few insurance scammers as competent and grisly as Hell’s Belle.

Also: Probably one you want to swipe left on if you see her on Tinder.

Maria ‘Chata’ Leon

Maria came over the border in the ’80s. She immediately started working with the Drew Street faction (The Avenues Gang) of the Mexican Mafia. Over the course of the ’80s and ’90s, she had 13 children. They would form her crew who would take over Drew Street, getting involved with drug dealing on the streets of LA and human trafficking illegal immigrants to keep the operations growing.

Maria had the idea to bring migrants over the border for “free.” Thus they’d be in debt to Drew Street and have to work off that debt selling drugs on the street. It was a slave trade. It made them amazing amounts of cash. As Maria’s sons came of age, her compound on Drew Street — or the Satellite House as it was known — became one of the most defended compounds in LA. It was impenetrable to the LAPD. Maria ran the show, and her sons killed anyone that stood in their way. They made enough money to keep the Mexican mafia happy. All while turning a section of LA into a war zone.

For a time, Francesco “Pancho” Real became the shot caller for Drew Street. By 2008, the gang-related killing hit a peak. The LAPD and RICO officials started arresting everyone. They even got permission to permanently demolish Maria’s Satellite House. Then Pancho turned state’s evidence. He disseminated the entire operation. Mama Leon was sentenced to eight years for racketeering and crack cocaine distribution in 2009. She is set to be released in 2017 and get immediately deported to Mexico (do they honestly think that she’ll stay?). Her son, Francesco, gets out in 2018 and will go into witness protection. Maria has approved a contract to murder her own son when he’s released.

Biljana Plavšić

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Ms. Plavšić’s grandmotherly charm is hiding a truly terrifying nature. She has an incredible record in academia. She was a Fulbright Scholar and studied botany at Cornell. She went on to work in electron microscopy of plant virility in London, Prague and Bari. She’s published hundreds of scientific papers that are the touchstone of botany research worldwide. All of this great acclaim led her to becoming first female member of the Presidency of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. She then became a vice president and the Supreme Commander of the Military.

After that, it all goes downhill very fast. In April of 1992, Plavšić started hanging out with the infamous Arkan (super villain, crime boss, tiger owner). It was around this time that she declared the Bosnian Muslim to be inferior racially to the Bosnian Serb. Her claim was that only the genetically deformed would embrace Islam and that adherence to said religion causes their DNA to deform further making them subhuman…so let’s kill them all. We’re paraphrasing, but that’s the gist. She was able to oust Radovan Karadžić (noted genocidal maniac) because she deemed him too docile in his genocidal mania. Even Slobodan Milošević deemed Plavšić too extreme stating, “She’s insufferably extremist, even for me.” Slobodan infamously refused to even shake Plavšić’s hand. When a soon to be convicted propagator of genocide refuses to shake your hand because you’re too crazy… you might be too crazy.

In December of 2001, after being banned from politics, Plavšić was finally arrested by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. She was charged with two counts of genocide, five counts of crime against humanity, and one count of violation of the laws and customs of war. That’s just madness. How does that cellmate conversation go? ‘Oh, you’re in for armed robbery? I’m in for genocide and crimes against humanity. I’ll take the top bunk.’ Biljana plea bargained her way to pleading guilty to one count of crimes against humanity. She later claimed she only pled guilty because no one would testify on her behalf to prove her innocence. The good news is she’s been released early and is getting back into politics!

Note: That was very scared sarcasm.

Fusako Shigenobu

Fusako came from humble beginnings in Japan. She studied political science and history at Meiji University. It was there, during a tuition fee hike protest, that she got into protest politics. Fusako was a leader in the militant communist Sekigun-ha, or Red Army Faction. After a purge and police crackdown, Fusako formed the Japanese Red Army in Lebanon. She trained in the desert and allied with the Palestinian Front. Under Fusako’s leadership, the Japanese Red Army would carry out terror attacks, hijackings, bombings, suicide bombings, and kidnappings across the globe. They even planned to bomb the New Jersey Turnpike in April 1988. The bombing would have coincided with their successful attack on a USO event in Naples, Italy, which killed five Americans. Their most infamous act of terror was the Lod Airport Massacre in Tel Aviv. The attack was carried out by three Japanese militants who arrived on a flight from Rome directly into the airport with violin cases filled with AK-47s and grenades. Twenty-eight people were killed, and 80 wounded. During the ’70s and ’80s, Fusako and her Red Army were able to hijack planes and bomb buildings to extract millions of dollars in ransom money and the release of dozens of their comrades.

Fusako returned to Japan in 2000. She was promptly arrested. The Japanese courts attempted to convict Fusako of the raiding and occupation of the French Embassy in the Hague, but failed to conclusively do so. Fusako received a 20-year sentence anyway, for which she is currently serving. Fusako continues to write books and protest from prison. She unapologetically leads the cause to this day for a worldwide communist revolution against the crush of imperialism.

Ching Shih

There are few who can lay claim to the title Pirate Queen. Born Shi Xianggu Guangdong in 1775 to humble circumstances, Shi would become a prostitute in Guangzhou before her 16th birthday. It was at this brothel that she was abducted by pirates working for Cheng I, because that’s how crazy the world was not that long ago. Shi caught the eye of Cheng I and they were married. Rumor has it that she negotiated a 50 percent share in his enterprise. As pirates do, Cheng died while plundering off the coast of present day Vietnam. Shi became Ching Shih (literally Cheng’s Widow). Ching Shih married Cheng’s adopted son, consolidated her power, and became the pirate queen. Ching Shih was famous for enacting a pirate code that was brutal and amazingly egalitarian.

One, anyone giving their own orders would be beheaded by Ching Shih on the spot. Two, no stealing for public funds or raiding helpful villages. Three, all goods and booty will be shared with the whole crew minus a 20 percent finder’s fee for the pirate that took it. Four, actual currency would be handed over to help unsuccessful ships get through thin times. (Oh, did I mention her fleet had 300 ships and over 20,000 pirates?) Five, no rape of female captives, or taking of wives without consent. Progressive for the early 1800s.

Perhaps Ching Shih is most famous for beating the Qing, Portuguese, and British navies. So complete was her prowess and victory that the Admiral of the Chinese Navy killed himself in shame.

Not really knowing what else to do after a pirate fleet had defeated them militarily, the powers that be offered Ching Shih a deal in hopes of taking her fleet off the seas, at the very least. In 1810, they offered amnesty for all of the pirates as long as they’d cease their piracy AND they could keep all their loot.

They took the deal. Ching Shih opened up a casino with her loot. She died 34 years later at the ripe old age of 69.

Kath Pettingill

Crime matriarch Kath Pettingill, 2 September 1996. Neg No 960902-15. THE AGE Pi
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The Pettingill Crime Family of Melbourne, Australia, are infamously vile. They’ve been part of massive heroin empires, death squads, dozens of robberies and burglaries, and too many acts of assault to list. At the head of all of this mayhem is matriarch Kath Pettingill. Kath had to work as a prostitute from a young age to get by. She never knew a single break in her early life. Then she turned to crime. She brought up her sons in crime and they were good at it. Kath and her children lived insanely wild lives. Their parties are the stuff of legend. Her eldest son Dennis ordered and/or committed so many murders he was nicknamed Dr. Death. Her second son Peter ran the heroin empire and was so skilled as a jailhouse lawyer that he ran most of their legal defensives. Family reunions would have been pretty touch and go: contract killers, drug traffickers, cop killers. If there was a crime going on in Melbourne in the ’80s, it likely led back to Kath.

It all fell apart when the deaths by overdoses and heart attacks and hits started pulling the family apart. Jason Ryan, Kath’s grandson, became the star witness for the prosecution against the family for their cop killing ways. Kath escaped conviction, but her boys were held responsible for the Walsh Street Murders of police officers — a conviction she still protests to this day. With the family broken up, Kath went on to run brothels in southern Australia. Her life has been the subject of several books, a film, and several TV shows, including TNT’s upcoming adaption of the acclaimed Australian film Animal Kingdom, premiering Tuesday, June 14 on TNT.

You can catch a sneak peek right here.