Five Criminals Who Helped Catch Other Criminals

Updated on January 30, 2019
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College graduate, freelance writer, cooking aficionado. Political junkie by day and screenwriter by night.

Frank Abagnale Jr. has become one of the most well known criminals who later helped law enforcement prevent identity theft related crimes.
Frank Abagnale Jr. has become one of the most well known criminals who later helped law enforcement prevent identity theft related crimes.

When it comes down to it, criminals protect themselves. They will do whatever it takes to keep themselves out of prison, even if that means ratting out fellow criminals. While the public rarely forgives felons, there are some who may possibly be deserving of forgiveness. Some attempt to make amends by helping to catch fellow criminals.

1. Frank Abagnale

Frank Abagnale is probably the most well-known criminal who has helped law enforcement catch other criminals. Abagnale is the inspiration for the film Catch Me If You Can. His life of crime started at a young age. When Abagnale's parents divorced, he traveled with his dad on a business trip, where he stole nearly a thousand dollars from his own dad.

Abagnale ended up running away from home when he was 16. With no money, he began writing bad checks. Abagnale ended up writing hundreds of bad checks, overdrawing his account by thousands of dollars. Abagnale knew this would alert the police, so he knew if he wanted to continue this life of crime, he'd have to take on a new identity. Abagnale would take that even farther. He ended up posing as a pilot, doctor, lawyer, and college professor. He ended up writing over $2.5 million in fraudulent checks.

Abagnale was finally caught by the French police and ended up serving five years in prison. He was granted early release, after agreeing to work with the U.S. government. Abagnale spent 30 years helping the FBI, financial institutions, and other law enforcement agencies. He ended up starting his own company, instructing consumers on how not to become victims of people similar to himself.

2. Frank Lucas

Frank Lucas was a drug kingpin in New York City. Lucas took to a life of crime and hustling to stay afloat. He later ended up traveling to Bangkok, Thailand, where he met an American soldier who connected him with a heroin supplier. Lucas knew the only way to undercut the Italian mafia is by having a direct line to a heroin supplier.

Rumors surround the way Lucas trafficked the drugs into the country. Lucas claimed to have stashed the heroin in dead soldiers' coffins. Others claimed he just hid it in furniture. Regardless, he was trafficking in heroin that was 98-100% pure, making it the hottest drug on the market. Lucas managed to keep a low profile by only hiring his family members.

In 1975, Drug Enforcement Agency agents raided Lucas' home. Lucas was eventually convicted of state and federal crimes and sentenced to 70 years in prison. However, his sentence was commuted after helping officers and providing evidence which led to over 100 drug-related convictions.

3. Joseph Valachi

Joseph Valachi became the first mafia member to acknowledge the existence of the mafia. Valachi was part of the Genovese crime family in New York, working as a getaway driver. Cosa Nostra became a regularly known term after Valachi testified. Valachi was responsible for the murder of an inmate he thought was a mafia hitman, as well as wounding Joseph Catania and underboss Joe Masseria.

Valachi later began testifying and helped police solve prior unsolved crimes, while also showing them the clear workings and operations of the Italian mob.

4. Kevin Mitnick

Kevin Mitnick was a computer hacker who was being hunted by authorities for stealing software. In 1992, the FBI raided Mitnick's apartment and only found a box of donuts in the fridge labeled "FBI Donuts." Mitnick's work as a hacker began when he was a teenager, which then led to him stealing source code from IT companies.

Mitnick managed to evade law enforcement for three years, but he was finally arrested in 1995 in North Carolina. He reached a plea deal, which restricted him from using the internet for three years and profiting from his story for seven years.

Mitnick appears to have turned a corner. He started his own security firm, helping corporations protect themselves from cyberattacks. Mitnick says he gets the same rush when he breaks into a client's system, but this time he's doing it for the right reasons.

5. Wayne Bradshaw

Wayne Bradshaw was a member of the biker gang called the Pagans. He was the man who collected debts, robbed dealers, and got into countless fights. Bradshaw eventually realized that he needed to leave the gang lifestyle, because sooner or later, he would be arrested or killed.

Bradshaw eventually left the Pagans and joined the police force. His fellow officers did not trust Bradshaw at first, but he ended up proving his worth in undercover operations. In one instance, Bradshaw and his partner were almost caught, but he managed to keep the ruse going and the deal alive.

Bradshaw ended up serving 20 years as a police officer before he retired. He now teaches self-defense classes for women.

© 2019 Lawrence

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