They say that the female is the most dangerous of the species, and that extends to the drug game as well. Women at the top of drug cartels are a far cry from hapless Nancy Botwin on "Weeds." These are stone-cold killers who don’t hesitate to perpetrate all kinds of hideous violence to cement their stranglehold on territory. Here are 10 female drug criminals from all over the world who you should be very wary of dealing with.
Angie Sanclemente ValenciaColombian cartel leader Angie Sanclemente Valencia started out as a beauty queen, winning the Reinado Nacional del Cafe pageant, but holding the crown for only two days. (She was disqualified when the judges found out she was married.) From there, it was a short hop to international drug smuggling.
It’s believed that Valencia entered the drug business as a result of a relationship with a Mexican cartel leader. When the pair broke up, she took everything she learned from him and went into business for herself. She recruited models to work as her drug mules, paying them as much as $5,000 per trip to carry cocaine from Argentina to England. When one of these ladies was busted, she blew the whistle, and Valencia was arrested in 2010.
Sandra Avila BeltranThe first woman to rise to the position of head of a Mexican drug cartel, Sandra Avila Beltran is a third-generation trafficker who showed her male peers that the ladies could run things just as well. Dubbed “The Queen of the Pacific” by the media, Beltran served as a link between the Sinaloa Cartel and Colombia’s Norte del Valle group.
She married twice, both times to corrupt police officers who were seduced by money and power and entered the drug trade, and both of her husbands were assassinated under mysterious circumstances. When her teenage son was kidnapped in 2002 and $5 million in ransom was demanded, Beltran went to the cops, which opened the door to an investigation that would result in her arrest in 2007. Don’t feel bad for her, though; the prison life has been good to the Queen, as she’s even been able to receive Botox treatments behind bars.
Possibly the most famous female drug lord of all time, the Black Widow was a squat, dumpy Colombian woman who came to have a stranglehold over the Miami drug scene in the early 1980s. Griselda was ruthless from way back, kidnapping a child for ransom at the age of 11. She emigrated to the United States and eventually settled in Florida, helping to set up the network that imported tons of coke to the States.
Making more than $8 million a month gave Griselda the resources to employ a massive network of thugs, and she’s generally believed to have been behind over 200 murders. She was finally arrested in 1985, but after being held in jail for a decade (where she continued to run her business) she was deported home to Colombia. She’s only been seen once since, but smart money is on the Black Widow pulling strings in the drug game to this day.
Kath PettingillNot all drug-cartel leaders hail from Mexico. There are a few sisters doing it for themselves in other parts of the world. Let’s head to Melbourne, Australia and meet Kath Pettingill. Also known as “Granny Evil,” Kath ran a sprawling crime operation that included a stranglehold on Melbourne’s illegal drug business as well as arms smuggling and prostitution.
Even better, every single one of her children went on to be crooks themselves, committing crimes including the murder of two police officers. Pettingill also boasts a glass eye, the result of being shot in the face while trying to pay off one of her kid’s debts.
Enedina Arellano FelixOne thing you’ll learn if you watch the Mexican drug cartels closely enough is that it’s a family affair. When a leader goes down, it’s up to whoever shares the bloodline to step up and work in their place. For the mighty Arellano Felix cartel -- which controls the vitally important traffic through Tijuana -- one such leader is Enedina Arellano Felix.
After her brother Ramon was killed and her other brother Eduardo was arrested, Enedina had to step out from her role as the cartel’s money manager and show that the family was still in charge. Interestingly enough, DEA intelligence pegs Enedina as the power behind the throne the whole time, as even when she wasn’t in charge, she helped keep her brothers in line and maximizing their illicit income.
Blanca Cazares SalazarKnown as “The Empress,” Blanca Cazares Salazar came into the drug business the same way many women do: as a money launderer. Salazar, a pretty young blonde, quickly became indispensable to the cartel run by Joaquin Guzman, soon taking over all of the financial operations for the Sinaloa Cartel.
Like all smart money launderers do, she spread her ill-gotten gains across over 42 subsidiary companies. She’s not at the top of the pyramid, but her connections allow her to get away with anything. She’s currently on the run from an extradition order to the United States.
Maria JimenezThe deadly cartel assassin known as La Tosca ("The Tough One") wasn’t ever at the top of a pyramid, but the power she wielded on the streets more than earned her a spot on this list. Maria Guadalupe Jimenez Lopez worked as an enforcer for the bloodthirsty Zetas, commanding a hit squad that killed people all over northern Mexico.
Paid a paltry $1,700 a month by the Zetas leadership, Jiminez took out anybody who stood in their way, from reporters to cops, and especially representatives of the rival Sinaloa cartel. She was busted in 2012 in a stolen van, and later confessed to involvement in 20 murders.
Edith Lopez LopezKnown as the Queen of the South, cartel higher-up Edith Lopez Lopez came into power as the wife of Raul Nunez Morales, a big-time drug dealer known as “The Cowboy.” When he was taken off the ranch in 2000, Lopez Lopez swiftly moved in to take his place, using the existing infrastructure in the tiny state of Queretaro to assemble a powerful network of dealers. In 2008, a specialized unit that had been working to assemble enough evidence for an arrest finally took down the Queen at a rigged sale.
Thelma WrightWhen you’re dependent on your husband to bring home the bacon, what do you do when he gets fried up in the pan? After Philadelphia drug kingpin Jackie Wright was murdered in 1986, what was known as the “Black Mafia” suddenly found itself leaderless -- until Wright's widow, Thelma, stepped in to handle things.
Thelma Wright had been involved in Jackie’s dealings intimately during their marriage, and throughout the '80s and '90s, she cemented the Black Mafia’s dominance of the narcotics trade, even relocating to Los Angeles part-time to do illegal business there. Eventually, fearing for the future of her son Jackiem, Thelma left the drug trade behind to pursue a new life. That doesn’t happen often.
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Mireya Moreno CarreonWidely regarded to be the first female to ever rise to a position of leadership in the notorious Zetas drug cartel, Mireya Moreno Carreon managed all of the drug traffic in the Monterrey town of San Nicolas de los Garza. Carreon is reported to have taken over the territory when previous capo Raul Garcia Rodriguez got taken down by a military operation in 2010.
Monterrey has been a brutal battlefield for drug cartels, with the Zetas facing off against three competing groups for dominance. Known as “La Flaca” (Spanish for “skinny”), Carreon only had a year on top before an undercover investigation busted her in a stolen vehicle with both cocaine and marijuana on her person.