True crime 12 Female Crime Lords Who Reigned Over Empires with an Iron Fist

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While most drug lords you've heard of are probably men, when females are in charge they can be every bit as ruthless - and sometimes much more so. Maybe it's because they need to stand out and be respected in a male-dominated arena, but when a woman is in charge of a crime syndicate, she is unflinchingly cruel. These women can certainly run with the big boys. 

These brutal organizations run by women are involved in everything - while there's a lot of drug trafficking, of course, there are also countless murders, shootings, bootlegging, prostitution, and even bombing an attorney general's office. These women do not mess around. And god help you if you try to interfere with their businesses, because if there's one thing you need to know abut a woman in charge, it's don't double cross her. Ever. Because hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and a female crime lord scorned has access to endless weaponry, power, and cash. Be warned. 


Griselda Blanco is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 12 Female Crime Lords Who Reigned Over Empires with an Iron Fist
Photo: Orange County Sheriff's Office

As far as nicknames go, "The Cocaine Godmother" is about as cool as it gets. Griselda Blanco grew up in the Colombian slums, working her way up the crime ladder, first as a prostitute and pickpocket. It didn't take her long to make her first kill - she was rumored to have committed her first murder at the age of 11. But it was only the first of many. 

Blanco was thought to have run a coke ring that moved 3,400 pounds of product a month, but her murder rate was just as jaw-dropping. Low estimates believe she was behind 40 or 50 murders, but some estimates go as high as 200. Talk about ruling with an iron fist. She was only ever convicted of three murders, but did spend 13 years in federal prison for drug charges. 

Her lovers and husbands were often among her victims, so she was also nicknamed the "Black Widow." She is set to be played by Jennifer Lopez in HBO Films’s new project.

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Stephanie St. Clair


Stephanie St. Clair is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 12 Female Crime Lords Who Reigned Over Empires with an Iron Fist
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It's one thing to be a bad-ass female crime lord, it's another to stand off with the mafia - and win - but Stephanie St. Clair was just that kind of fierce woman. Known as Queenie or Madame St. Claire (two amazing nicknames), she started her own numbers racket in 1923 and was soon making over a quarter of a million a year - insane money in those days. 

But it wasn't all underhand deeds; she also took out newspaper adds explaining her community's rights to them, agitating for voting rights, and arguing against police brutality, even getting corrupt cops fired. And when the mob tried to move in on her uptown territory, she didn't mess around. She had those sent to intimidate her "taken care of," then tipped of the police about mob businesses and had their storefronts attacked - then took out newspaper ads bragging to the mob about what she'd done and daring them to stop her. About her arch-rival, she said, “I’m not afraid of Dutch Schultz or any other man living. He’ll never touch me.”

Oh, and when her nemesis Schultz was finally shot in the stomach, she wasted no time sending a friendly telegraph to his deathbed. It read “So You Sow - So Shall Ye Reap" and was signed off “Madam Queen of Policy.” Damn. 

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Marllory Dadiana Chacon Rossel


Marllory Dadiana Chacon Rossel is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 12 Female Crime Lords Who Reigned Over Empires with an Iron Fist
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Guatemalan drug lord and "Queen of the South," Marllory Dadiana Chacon Rossel was eventually jailed after she surrendered. But that was only after a pretty bad-ass life of crime. 

Her organization supplied cocaine to Mexican drug cartels including Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel, as well as  laundering tens of millions of dollars a month. The US Treasury named her husband as an accomplice, but there was no denying that Rossel was the one in charge. 

She eventually surrendered and has been working with the DEA and the US Attorney's Office in Florida since 2012, giving information in exchange for the authorities agreeing to keep her sentence and release date secret for five years, to protect herself from rivals. With a crime record like that, just imagine who she's pissed off. 

Charmaine Roman


Charmaine Roman is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 12 Female Crime Lords Who Reigned Over Empires with an Iron Fist
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A concert promotion business is a pretty innocent-seeming front for a drug lord and one that Charmaine Roman used very successfully.... at least, for a while. She was the head of a violent Jamaican drug ring, responsible for bringing thousands of pounds of marijuana into Florida. It took years of surveillance for the police to finally catch her with a 400-pound shipment, eventually seizing over 3,000 pounds of marijuana; $200,000; 15 guns; and several cars. Not a bad day at the office. 

She was also found with various passports and ID cards with many different identities. Besides being a drug kingpin (queenpin?) she had a love of lottery scratch cards, reportedly winning almost $200,000. What a hobby. 

Rosetta Cutolo


Rosetta Cutolo is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list 12 Female Crime Lords Who Reigned Over Empires with an Iron Fist
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When former Cammora boss and Nuova Commora Organizzita (NCO) head Raffaele Cutolo was incarcerated, it was up to his sister, Rosetta, to take over the family business. She negotiated trade deals with cartels, was in charge of billions of dollars, and was rumored to have attempted to blow up a police station. Though she successfully reigned for 15 years, a raid brought her down - she spent 12 years on the run before eventually being found by police. 

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Gertrude Lythgoe


Gertrude Lythgoe is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list 12 Female Crime Lords Who Reigned Over Empires with an Iron Fist
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Prohibition-era bootlegging may have been a man's game, but that didn't stop Gertrude Lythgoe from getting her share of the pie. She had a wholesale liquor shop, a whole lot of profits - and a ruthless way of dealing with competitors. When she found out a rival was badmouthing her booze, she kidnapped him and held a gun to his head to make sure he never did it again. He didn't. No wonder her savvy and success earned her the nickname "The Bahama Queen."

Maria Licciardi


Maria Licciardi is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list 12 Female Crime Lords Who Reigned Over Empires with an Iron Fist
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Maria Licciardi became the "Boss of Bosses" when she took over Sister of Secondigliano Alliance (SA) following the death of her husband and brothers. Not limiting to herself to extortion and drug trafficking, Liccianrdi was one of the few females bosses that support prostitution. And she was ruthless - her prostitutes were often kept drugged and when they were no longer making money, they were killed. 

Though she occasionally gave back to the community, when an ally and partner, the La Russo Clan, sold heroine so pure and potent it killed customers, Licciardi started to get the wrong kind of attention. The two groups turned on each other and over 120 people died in car bombings, shootings, and other violence. 

Fearing investigations, she also had the distract attorney's office bombed, but that didn't stop them from eventually imprisoning her. She is thought to still be running the business from behind bars. 

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Raffela D’Alterio


Raffela D’Alterio is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list 12 Female Crime Lords Who Reigned Over Empires with an Iron Fist
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"The Big Female Kitten" may not sound like an intimidating nickname, but Raffela D'Alterio could mess you up. This mafia godmother took over the Pianese-D'Alterio clan after her husband was gunned down - and she took her share of bullets from rivals just a few years later, but survived. Her family has been known for heading up a lucrative drug cartel and using violence and intimidation. She was arrested in 2012 for extortion, illegal weapons, robbery, and drugs.