Special Report

The Most Infamous White Collar Criminals of All Time

The December 2022 arrest of cryptocurrency entrepreneur Samuel Bankman-Fried brought digital currency into the world of potential scams in business and finance. The 30-year-old ex-billionaire faces a raft of criminal charges for diverting customer funds from his now-bankrupt FTX cryptocurrency exchange into his cryptocurrency-focused hedge fund.

If a court finds him guilty, Bankman-Fried faces up to 115 years in prison and would join a notorious list of white-collar criminals that have used various illegal means to enrich themselves at the expense of others. (These are 20 of the biggest cryptocurrency scams of the last year.)

24/7 Tempo compiled a list of the most infamous white-collar criminals of all time by consulting sites including King University, Investopedia, Yahoo Finance, The FBI, CNN, Time, and CNBC. Our list was assembled based on the size and scope of the crime, and we used editorial discretion to make our final selections.

Some of these crooks, like the late Bernie Madoff, who died in prison in 2021 while serving a 150-year sentence, created elaborate Ponzi schemes — frauds that involve paying old investors with money from new investors rather than from profits earned through legitimate business. Others were rogue traders like Nick Leeson, whose unauthorized bets on the Japanese stock market caused Britain’s oldest merchant bank to collapse in the 1990s. (Here’s a look at the worst corruption scandal in every state.)

The list of the most notorious white-collar criminals include a preacher who defrauded his congregation and illegally shorted company stocks, two men who used their electronics wholesale business to take out $33 million in fraudulent bank loans before fleeing to Israel, and a hedge funder who bilked investors out of $450 million then attempted to fake his own suicide to escape the law.  

Click here to learn about the most infamous white collar criminals of all time

Two huge companies collapsed under these types of high-stakes crimes: energy and commodities trading company Enron and long-distance phone company WorldCom. Wells Fargo, the fourth-largest bank in the United States, is still grappling with the impact of its cross-selling scandal that emerged when it was revealed the bank opened at least 3.5 million credit card and bank accounts without customers’ consent.

The list includes one woman, homemaking mogul Martha Stewart, who served five months in 2005 for insider trading. All but five of the people named on this list are still alive – either free or rotting in prison.

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