September 20, 2018

The History Of The FBI Most Wanted List And Its Most Notorious Members

Summary: The FBI most wanted list has been in publication since 1950. The list is updated as soon as a criminal is caught, killed, no longer considered a threat or if the charges against them are dropped. The most notorious criminals in the history of the FBI most wanted list are Billie Austin Bryant, Gerhard Arthur Puff and Willie Sutton, all of whom have a long history of assaults, convictions and even some escapes from prison.

fbi most wanted list

Getting on the FBI most wanted list is no easy task. With the different types of crimes investigated by the agency such as terrorism, organized crime, white collar crime, major thefts and heists, cyber crime, civil rights related crimes and counterintelligence, there is a long list of criminals contending for the top spots. The list originated quite by accident in 1949, in a casual conversation between the then Director, J Edgar Hoover and the Editor in Chief of the INS, W.H. Hutchinson and was followed up by an article featuring the list. Such was the popularity of the article that since March, 1950, the Bureau started publishing it regularly.

The way the FBI most wanted list works is that the top ten most dangerous fugitives are put on the list. In the event of one of them being captured or killed, the next person on the list fills their place. Similarly, the Bureau can remove a person’s name from a list when they are no longer considered a threat or when the charges against them are dropped. In rare instances, an eleventh name is added to the list if a new fugitive who is extremely dangerous has to be added and none of the other ten can be removed.

Historically, the most notorious criminals on the FBI most wanted list are Billie Austin Bryant, Gerhard Arthur Puff and Willie Sutton. Billie Austin Bryant who was convicted to serve 18 to 54 years for bank robbery and assault in April 1968 escaped from the corrections facility where he was being held. Subsequently, he robbed and other bank and killed two FBI agents who came to his wife’s house in pursuit after getting information about his whereabouts after the bank robbery. He was recaptured in January 1969 after being identified in a line up by the third agent who was at the scene of the killing of his fellow agents.

Gerhard Arthur Puff on the other hand had a long list of crimes on his portfolio before he made it to the FBI most wanted list. His crimes included robbery, assault, breaking and entering, and finally armed robbery. He was finally apprehended in 1952 and sentenced to death in the electric chair in August 1954. Similarly, Willie Sutton, who was also known as The Actor for his ingenious methods of executing robberies was convicted in 1931, escaped in 1932, recaptured in 1934, once again escaped in 1947 and then again caught in 1952. He was released in 1969 from prison owing to poor health and finally died in 1980 in Florida at 79 years.

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