Organized crime is predominantly a men’s world, but there are some women whose penchant for violence, drug laundering and more that have made them infamous crime figures. Here are a few notable ones over the decades:
STEPHANIE ST. CLAIR: The French-African immigrant ran a numbers bank in Harlem in the 1920s. By the 1930s St. Clair, known as “Queenie,” became so successful that she was squaring off against Dutch Schultz over the territory, with Schultz demanding she pay a “protection fee.” She resisted paying, which angered the mob and made her a marked woman. Eventually, with the help of her protegee/future mob figure Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson, she brokered peace with Schultz and agreed to pay a “Mafia tax.” However, when Schultz was assassinated, St. Clair sent a telegram to his hospital bed, “As ye sow, so shall ye reap,” signed, “Madame Queen.”
BONNIE PARKER: Romanticized in the 1967 film, Bonnie Parker and her boyfriend Clyde Barrow were the focus of one of the most spectacular manhunts the country had seen. Between 1932 and 1934, the couple and their gang robbed gas stations and stores—and also kidnapped and killed civilians and lawmen alike. Parker became famous when a photograph of her smoking a cigar was found at one of their hideouts. The picture was published in newspapers, and made her a celebrity.
But on May 23, 1934, the law caught up to them near Sailes, Louisiana. Police officers from Louisiana and Texas waited in bushes and when Parker and Barrow got in their car and were trying to drive away, the officers opened fire, killing them instantly.
The last straw was when a crew threatened to rape her daughter if Brickman didn’t pay drug debts from her daughters and gambling debts from her bookmaking partner. She became a government informant in the 1970s and 1980s, wearing wires in exchange for the government paying off the debts. Her work helped convict numerous members of the Colombo crime family. Jessica Biel may star in a film about Brickman’s life.
The killings of her sons and second husband were related to the gangland killings in Melbourne, where dozens of crime organization figures were killed as various factions fought for power. Judy Moran was eventually convicted of killing her brother-in-law Desmond Moran in a cafe. Prosecutors say that she plotted the crime in her home and also hid the disguises of the hit men there. Moran apparently acted out of “retribution, hostility, financial retribution, or all of those reasons.”
JULIE LUCAS: The wife of “American Gangster” Frank Lucas, the former beauty queen helped him with his heroin trade in 1960s New York City. When he was taken down in 1975, Frank Lucas was sentenced to 40 years in prison while she was sentenced to five years. More recently, in 2010, Julie Lucas was arrested for trying to sell 2 kilos of cocaine to a federal agent in Puerto Rico. The 70-year-old told a judge, “I am ashamed that at my age I am standing in front of you,” and was sentenced to another five years.
However, Cheng denied she had anything to do with the smuggling, insisting that she was trying to protect herself and her children from threats from a violent gang. During her sentencing, Ping told a pregnant federal prosecutor, “Once you become a mother you will understand me.” Cheng was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
GRISELDA BLANCO: Known as a “The Cocaine Godmother,” Griselda Blanco was a Medellin drug lord and helped establish the drug trade between Colombia and Miami in the 1970s and 1980s. At her height, Blanco organized the shipment of over three tons of cocaine into the U.S. each year. Part of her legend is that she killed another child at age 11 when his parents refused to pay ransom and that she was responsible for between 20 and 40 murders, including the killing of a three-year-old child.
Blanco also plotted to kidnap John F. Kennedy Jr., opened up a factory to make female undergarments—better to smuggle drugs in the U.S. that way—and gave a hit man a vintage World War II bayonet to kill a rival. Killing her husband was apparently no problem—Blanco shot him when she believed he stole millions in drug money profits (she survived the shots from the Uzi he fired at her).
Arrested numerous times, Blanco was deported back to Colombia in 2004. On September 3, 2012, while leaving a butcher in Medellin, Blanco was shot in the face twice by a man on a motorcycle.