Addicted to the life?
November 8, 2012 3:56 PM   Subscribe

What are some examples of criminals who fell into a life of crime for the lifestyle of luxury/ power it provided?

I'm working on a documentary project and I'd like examples of people who fell into a life of crime for the spoils and wealth and power it gave them. Bank robbers, embezzlers, madams, drug smugglers, impostors, forgers, fraudsters -- the more interesting the story, the better! I'm hoping the hive-mind can tip me off to some more local stories that haven't been so well reported.

My criteria is that it has to be:
-preferrably no "wet" crime (no murder, though drugs are OK). you should be able to empathize with the criminal somewhat, so no sociopaths
-they should be semi-recent
-they should have done time and will hopefully be repentant. extra points for serious rehabilitation/atonement

thanks in advance, hive mind!
posted by custard heart to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Heidi Fleiss
posted by dfriedman at 3:57 PM on November 8, 2012

If the 60's is semi-recent, there's Frank Abagnale.

posted by Ruki at 3:57 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Bling Ring?
posted by lovableiago at 4:00 PM on November 8, 2012

Gerald Blanchard (Canadian, sorry eh.)
posted by mannequito at 4:22 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Lori Arnold.
posted by Shepherd at 4:32 PM on November 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Two examples of female criminals whose desire for the Hollywood celebutante it-girl lifestyle led to crime:

Lissette Lee posed as an heiress of Samsung (this article leaves it somewhat ambiguous, but if you google a bit more she's definitely not) and smuggled a ton of weed

The Bling Ring broke into celebrity homes and made off with drugs, money, & designer clothing.

posted by Juliet Banana at 5:05 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Freeway Ricky Ross, interviewed by NPR's Planet Money. A fascinating look at the what, how, and why of being one of LA 's biggest crack dealers.
posted by bah213 at 5:22 PM on November 8, 2012

posted by bleep at 5:30 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Doris Payne, a smooth, globe-trotting, well-heeled international jewel thief who was born the daughter of a West Virginia coal miner.
posted by mochapickle at 6:07 PM on November 8, 2012

Rapper, actor and former jewelry store robber Ice-T. Read his biography. He admits to numerous crimes now that the statute of limitations has passed. Or at least he lays claim to crimes.
posted by GuyZero at 6:15 PM on November 8, 2012

This is pretty much the story of every person who grew up in the projects/inner city and got involved in the drug trade. The drug kings have all the money and power in these communities. Prisons are full of people who started going down that road as teens, but the only ones you or I hear about are those that managed to escape that world. Jay-Z is a good suggestion. Pay close attention to his lyrics ("Allure" is a good example). I think his book is great too.

I encourage you to examine the position you are coming at this from, though. I don't think many of the people you will encounter are repentant for being involved in the drug trade. Honestly, it seems like you are looking at this from a pretty pollyannaish angle that ignores the complexity of inner city drug crime. But maybe your documentary is more about sexier crime than drug crimes.
posted by murfed13 at 6:43 PM on November 8, 2012

"Mayflower Madam" Sydney Biddle Barrows

She was fired from her job and got some work answering phones at an escort service to tide her over. She ended up starting a high class escort service. It was all supposed to be temporary but she couldn't afford to walk away. After being busted, she went straight. The book "Mayflower Madam" was a good read.
posted by Michele in California at 6:56 PM on November 8, 2012

Rare wine hoaxer Rudy Kurniawan. I love this story. I had no idea it was a thing. I just love the idea of some guy with some bottles of cheap wine, a printer, and some glue fooling the world's most respected note-taking wine snobs. I don't know if he's repentant but that article's worth a read.
posted by pravit at 6:57 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Frank Abagnale, the forger/con man who wrote "Catch Me If You Can," the biographical story of his crimes and ultimate capture by the FBI.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:11 PM on November 8, 2012

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