21 Most Successful Convicted Felons. You Can Still be Successful in Life After Prison

In this article we are going to look at the 21 most successful convicted felons. We will examine what they did to end up in jail, and what they did afterwards that made them so successful. A lot of the people listed here may have experienced the same thing as you or have come from the same background.

Don’t let your criminal history be an excuse for why you can’t do great things. Let these stories be an example of what is possible.

1. Frank Abagnale

  • Criminal Charge: Fraud and Forgery
  • Time Spent: 4 Months in France, 4 Months in Sweden, 4 Years in Atlanta
  • Success Afterwards: Abagnale & Associates (his own business)

Frank learned the skill of forging checks and ended up spending around $2 million in fake checks. Now, Frank Abagnale runs a successful consulting agency (Abagnale & Associates). He helps prevent people and companies from falling victim to forgery.

2. Michael Vick

  • Criminal Charge: Dogfighting
  • Time Spent: 18 Months
  • Success Afterwards: NFL Quarterback

Michael Vick was a famous NFL football player before and after his time in jail. He got caught hosting a dog fighting ring at his house and admitted to funding it as well. Vick continued to play football and ended with a successful career, despite his time in jail.

3. Stephen Richards

  • Criminal Charge: Drug Dealing
  • Time Spent: 9 Years
  • Success Afterwards: Author, University Professor

Stephen Richard was in jail for 9 years for selling drugs. During his time he studied and earned a bachelors degree. From there he began to teach a whole new way of studying criminology in an attempt to change how people study it. He claims that it is better for an ex-con to make the changes in the prison system.

4. Danny Trejo

  • Criminal Charge: Armed Robbery and Drug Offenses
  • Time Spent: 11 Years (In and Out)
  • Success Afterwards: Movie Star

Danny Trejo spent his childhood in and out of prison. He wouldn’t change until he evaded a sentence on death row. This served as an opportunity for him to turn his life around and make some changes. He has since featured in a lot of Hollywood movies. He also has a very indistinguishable appearance that anyone would recognize.

5. Greg Mathis

  • Criminal Charge: Concealed Weapons
  • Time Spent: <1 Year
  • Success Afterwards: Judge, TV Star

While Greg Mathis may not fit the “felon” profile, he is inspiration because of what he overcame. He faced problems as he tried to get his license to practice law. Mathis is the perfect example of why you should never give up. He continued to fight for his license and received it. He then became a judge and now has a popular TV show.

6. Larry Levine

  • Criminal Charge: Possession of Arms and Drugs, Securities Fraud, Obstruction of Justice
  • Time Spent: 10 Years
  • Success Afterwards: Prison Consultant

Larry Levine spent his time in prison studying law. With the knowledge he helped other prisoners with their own legal battles. He became very knowledgeable on prison law and the prison system. Now he works as a consultant helping defense lawyers and prisoners.

7. Charles Colson

  • Criminal Charge: Obstruction of Justice
  • Time Spent: 7 Months
  • Success Afterwards: Prison Fellowship

Charles Colson may not fit the typical felon profile. Regardless, he has still done notable work for prisoners everywhere. Colson was apart of the Watergate scandal with former President Nixon. While in jail he grew close to God. He then started one of the largest Christian nonprofit organizations serving prisoners. He also has a scholarship that pays for felons to go to college.

8. Kwesi Mfume

  • Criminal Charge: Theft
  • Time Spent: <1 Year
  • Success Afterwards: Congressman, President of NAACP

Kwesi Mfume was in and out of jail, had children out of wedlock, lost his mom at a young age and didn’t have a father growing up. He had to work his way through college and leaving his street life. Kwesi Mfume became a congressman and then the president of the NAACP.

9. Kevin Mitnick

  • Criminal Charge: Wire Fraud, Unauthorized Access to a Federal Computer
  • Time Spent: 7 Years
  • Success Afterwards: Mitnick Security

Kevin Mitnick was at one point on the FBI’s most wanted list for his incredible hacking skills. Mitnick was able to use those skills to start his cybersecurity consulting company. He still hacks into websites, but people pay him to do it now.

10. Piper Kerman

  • Criminal Charge: Money Laundering and Drug Trafficking
  • Time Spent: 13 Months
  • Success Afterwards: Orange is the New Black

Piper Kerman’s wrote her story of prison in her book. These stories were later used to create the popular TV series Orange is the New Black. She was able to use her hardships and experiences to entertain and educate others.

11. Frederick Hutson

  • Criminal Charge: Drug Distribution
  • Time Spent: 4 Years
  • Success Afterwards: Piegonly

Pigeonly is a company that allows family members to communicate with inmates. They can send money, photos, and other media from a cell phone or mobile device. The program also has made making prison calls more affordable.

12. Coss Marte

  • Criminal Charge: Drug Kingpin
  • Time Spent: 7 Years
  • Success Afterwards: Conbody

Coss Marte needed to lose weight while he was in prison. He used his time to develop effective workout routines as he tried to lose that weight. He would later apply to his life and his gym on the outside. He now has a gym and makes workout plans that are “prison style” for people to use.

13. Cedric Hornbuckle

  • Criminal Charge: Drug Distribution
  • Time Spent: 8 Years
  • Success Afterwards: Moved by Love

Moved by Love is a moving company founded by Cedric after prison. The Prison Entrepreneurship Program funded the first parts of the moving company. This allowed him to buy his first moving van. The PEP is a great program to help prisoners who have an idea to start their own business.

14. Dave Dahl

  • Criminal Charge: Burglary, Drug Distribution, Armed Robbery, Assault
  • Time Spent: 15+ Years (in total)
  • Success Afterwards: Dave’s Killer Bread

Dave Dahl achieved success after his time in prison after his bread became popular. He learned the skill while growing up in a bakery (even thou he hated it). While he was successful he would later end up going to jail again and leaving the company.

15. Adrienne Smalls

  • Criminal Charge: Assault of a Policeman
  • Time Spent: 2 Years
  • Success Afterwards: Prisonhelp

Prisonhelp is a company that helps families who are taking the bus to see their loved ones. They give supplies they might need for the trip (like medicine and toiletries). She also works as an advisor to released prisoners. She assists them in finding employment and handling their legal issues.

16. Vickie Stringer

  • Criminal Charge: Drug Trafficking
  • Time Spent: 7 Years
  • Success Afterwards: Triple Crown Publications

Vickie Stringer wrote her autobiography while she was in prison. She had to raise her own money to publish the book herself when nobody else would. She used the money from the book sales to make her own publishing house. Now she publishes books from people with similar stories.

17. Augustus Turner

  • Criminal Charge: Drug Trafficking
  • Time Spent: 10 Years
  • Success Afterwards: Masterpieces

Augustus Tuner had a love for art which grew during his time in prison. He wanted to be an artist. Once he was released he founded his business “Masterpieces”. It is his own art studio for other painters to make and show their art. They also do tattoos there.

18. Anthony DiVincenzo

  • Criminal Charge: Drug Possession
  • Time Spent: 3 Years
  • Success Afterwards: J.C. Auto Body LLC

Anthony DiVincenzo had an auto body business before his arrest. After his time he was able to create a second auto body shop. After starting his second auto body shop he then moved on to a luxury car dealership. He became a very successful salesman there.

19. Robert Downey Jr.

  • Criminal Charge: Possession of Drugs and Firearms
  • Time Spent: 3 Years
  • Success Afterwards: Highest Paid Hollywood Actor

If you’ve ever seen Ironman, then you’ve met this man. Robert Downey Jr. has had a troubled upbringing and fought a drug addiction since he was a kid. This is what put him in jail. After jail he still trained as an actor and landed the role for Ironman. He is now the highest paid actor in Hollywood.

20. Big Herc

  • Criminal Charge: Robbery
  • Time Spent: 9 Years
  • Success Afterwards: Fresh Out- Life After the Penitentiary

Big Herc took the lessons he learned from prison and made them into a YouTube series. These videos answer questions about prison and help others who had similar experiences. He also does consulting for those who may soon be going to prison. He also had his own line of protein powder and shirts.

21. Martha Stewart

  • Criminal Charge: Insider Trading
  • Time Spent: 1 Year
  • Success Afterwards: TV Star, Multiple Business Ventures

Martha Stewart went to jail after lying to the FBI about some of her actions she had taken with her company. Once the public got wind of this it actually helped her get famous and drove the stock of her company up. She used that success to start many different businesses and became a TV star.

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