5 Shocking Crimes From People Who Founded Famous Companies
Brands love to celebrate their founders. Apple would sell Steve Jobs turtlenecks if they could, KFC slaps the Colonel on every box, and Disney still makes all new park employees kiss Walt Disney's frozen head before entering. But there are plenty of companies that would prefer we forget all about the horrible, horrible people who started them. It might hurt sales if it became widely known that Marcus Dorito would hunt people for sport, or that Joel von Quaker-Oats had an affair with the original Lassie. Some other examples ...
The Founders Of Chippendales Were A Bunch Of Murderers
Somen "Steve" Banerjee was a true pioneer of the 20th century. In 1979, he was hosting a female mud wrestling night when he had an epiphany: "What if we did this, but with cocks?" Together with some unlikely partners -- lawyer Bruce Nahin, former pimp Paul Snider, and Emmy-winning choreographer Nick De Noia -- he launched Chippendales, America's favorite bulge-based dance troupe. But while the beefcakes on stage were all about healthy living and positive male sexuality, the founders were all about anger, jealousy, and occasionally some light murder.
The first murder came in 1980, when Snider's wife and former client, Playboy model Dorothy Stratten, left him. Snider found out that Stratten was sleeping with director Peter Bogdanovich, so he broke into Stratten's house, raped her, murdered her, then blew his own head off with a shotgun.
Meanwhile, Banerjee was growing concerned about how many other entertainers were stealing his absolutely unique idea of getting hot people to take off their clothes for money, so decided he needed to take strong steps to protect his brand. Steps such as burning down nightclubs that dared to host rival dance troupes, or hiring a hitman to shoot Nick De Noia dead in front of his apartment because he decided to quit the Chippendales and do choreography for one of its rivals. Remember, we're talking about dick-dancing here. Professional dick-dancing.
Banerjee was also behind a plot to murder Nahin, but that took a backseat to a much grander plan to wipe out the competition. Through two inept goons, Banerjee contracted Lynn Bressler, code-named "Strawberry," to kill several members of the Chippendales' biggest rival beefcake factory, Adonis. Banerjee's goons supplied Strawberry with a bag o' cyanide and told him to poison three Adonis employees. That bag was later recovered by the FBI, and was found to contain enough cyanide to kill 2,300 people, suggesting that any one Adonis dancer was worth 766 ordinary men. Truly, they were gods.
But if there's one thing Strawberry Bressler liked more than poisoning strippers, it was being an informant for the feds. When pressed, he turned over quicker than an oiled-up Chippendale on Ass Night, and the authorities arrested Banerjee. This opened the floodgates, exposing the murder, racketeering, and arson. Banerjee, seeing no exit stage left, hung himself in prison before a judge could sentence him. Those Chippendales always were well-hung.
The Founder Of DHL Was A Pedophile Who Rampaged Unchecked Across The Pacific
Larry Hillblom was the kind of guy who'd get banned from multiple bakeries for fondling the muffins. Unfortunately, he was also the kind of guy who could sell sand to a desert, and he became very rich after co-founding DHL, the Pepsi to FedEx's Coke. And trust us when we say that he was the last man you'd want to have "Fuck you" money. You would not like where he applied it.
In the 1980s, 40-something Hillblom largely retired, and moved to the North Marianas Islands, a part of the world where being stupid rich basically meant he had more spending money than most local governments. This allowed him to dedicate the remainder of his life to his favorite expensive hobby: being a disgusting sex offender. Hillblom spent millions on "sex safaris" across poor Southeast Asian countries. And because he was obsessed with virgins (and scared of AIDS), most of his victims were underage girls.
How did he get away with all of this? Hillblom didn't merely bribe a cop or two; he bought himself a seat on the Northern Mariana Islands' Supreme Court. He also paid $25,000 to become the Marshall Islands' ambassador to Vietnam just so he could have diplomatic immunity while molesting his way through Saigon. But karma isn't as cheap as a judge's robe, and in 1995, Hillblom vanished forever after a plane crash near Saipan.
Hillblom's crimes only came to light after his death, when four children from across the Pacific emerged to reveal that he had knocked up their severely underage mothers. The Hillblom family denied the accusations and their request for DNA testing ... but still gave $90 million to each of the children. Because those kids may not have had any proof, but Hillblom was definitely that kind of guy.
The Founder Of Popeyes Tried Bribing A Judge With Seafood
Popeyes Chicken founder Al Copeland is everything you'd ever want out of a shady New Orleans business tycoon: corrupt, crazy, and completely shameless. How shameless? He bought a showroom for his collection of speedboats ... right next to a busy intersection, solely so that drivers could see how rich he was. He also got the local sheriff's department to divert traffic from his house during the Christmas season just so he could set up ridiculous decorations.
But perhaps the best shenanigan occurred in 1993, during Copeland's bidding war to open a floating casino on the bayou. Did we say bidding war? We meant bribing war, as both he and tugboat magnate (New Orleans, everybody!) Robert Guidry had openly been trying to pay off Governor Edwin Edwards, a man who got elected on the slogan "Vote For The Crook." In the end, Guidry managed to out-bribe Copeland by kicking back a whopping million bucks. Copeland's response? To get into a bare-knuckle fistfight with Guidry in the restaurant where Copeland was celebrating his one-year anniversary with his fourth wife -- who was pregnant. New Orleans, everybody!
Copeland's shadiest move happened before then, during his divorce from third wife Luan Hunter. Like with any third marriage, Copeland thought their love would last forever and spent a fortune on the wedding, which included a Popeyes-branded helicopter whose only job was to drop rose petals. Shockingly, the marriage quickly turned sour, and Copeland was arrested for dragging Luan out of her car when she tried to get away from his crazy ass. The couple soon filed for divorce, but Copeland wasn't worried about any charges, because he figured he would simply bribe his way out of them.
Unfortunately for Copeland, the FBI figured the same, and secretly recorded his lawyer meeting with the judge, who promised to rule in Copeland's favor in exchange for a contract to supply seafood to his restaurants.
New. Orleans. Everybody.
Copeland's legal team went to prison over the deal, but he somehow wriggled out of it by saying he had no idea what was going on. We guess divorce lawyers committing shrimp-based crimes is an everyday occurrence in the Big Easy.
Sam Colt Let His Brother Die In Jail To Keep His Teenage Wife A Secret
Samuel Colt's brother John was a prominent New York accounting expert and former riverboat gambler. Did you already guess that this story involves New Orleans? You must be psychic.
John also had a bit of a temper, highlighted in 1841 when he hacked a printer to bits with a hatchet. Now, everyone who ever had to deal with a printer can relate to that frustration, except that in John's case, the printer was a human being named Sam Adams. After the murder, John hid Adams' body in a crate full of salt and tried to have it shipped to New Orleans. But the Crescent City never got its shipment of salted Sam, as the body was discovered before the ship left port.
Despite a team of high-priced lawyers (paid with stock in Sam's fledgling gun company), John didn't stand a chance. The jury was quickly convinced that John was a man of ill repute, especially after they found out he had a pregnant teenage mistress, Caroline Henshaw. John was found extremely guilty and sentenced to hang. His last request: to marry Caroline and make her Mrs. Colt. Except that there was no need. She was already Mrs. Colt, as she had married Samuel years before.
Before Caroline was John's girlfriend, she was Sam Colt's wife -- and the child she was pregnant with was in fact the son of Sam. Colt had met and married the 16-year-old on a trip to Europe, but in order to keep his Vegas-style wedding and extramarital child from harming his social standing, he handed her off to John and pretended she never existed. John, both a cheat and a murderer, was somehow still the more honorable of the Colt brothers, so he kept up the lie even when it was used to help get him a death sentence.
After the wedding, John was found dead in his cell, having apparently stabbed himself in the heart with a knife smuggled in by one of the wedding guests (we wonder who), creating one more scandal to divert attention from his famous brother. After John's demise, Caroline and her child were shipped off back to Europe. For the rest of his life, Sam referred to his son as his "nephew" -- as in, he literally put quotation marks around the word every time he wrote it. Thanks to his brother, he managed to take this secret to the grave, but only barely. Right after his death, the young Samuel Colt Jr. (shouldn't the name have given it away?) arrived in the U.S., showed everyone his parents' European marriage certificate, and claimed his massive part of the Colt fortune.
Hobby Lobby Execs Trafficked Stolen Iraqi Artifacts
Hobby Lobby was founded and is still owned by the Green family, who are such hardcore evangelical Christians that they refused to include birth control in their company health plan. You might have heard about the little legal tiff over that issue. When not reading the Bible to their cashiers, the Greens use their millions to fund weird historical projects. The jewel in their crown is Washington's Museum of the Bible, which sounds like the most boring school trip ever, but contains a treasure trove of legit religious artifacts acquired at great expense. The artifacts are so amazing that the museum actually got the family into quite a lot of trouble, since many of them were easily identified, and had been looted from Iraqi museums and archaeological sites during the ongoing conflict with ISIS.
The Greens claim they didn't understand the "complexities of the acquisitions process" -- i.e. that they had no idea they were buying stolen national treasures like they were hitting up the History Aisle in Costco. A bold defense, given that the expert they hired specifically warned them that he "would regard the acquisition of any artifact likely from Iraq ... as carrying considerable risk."
What also didn't help their plea of ignorance: The Greens tried to disguise that they were buying the artifacts in the first place. The family used five different fronts to buy millions of dollars' worth of ancient cuneiform tablets, and then shipped them using fake invoices to multiple locations in the U.S., all packed in boxes labeled as tile samples. Sure is an odd way to make a purchase you think is legal.
By 2011, Customs and Border Protection had finally caught on. The Greens had to return around 3,450 objects as part of a settlement with the Justice Department, and also pay a $3 million fine, which is like a week's worth of quilting revenue to them.
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