Famous Cases and Criminals

John Dillinger. Al Capone. The KKK. The Unabomber. John Gotti. Bonnie and Clyde. The FBI has investigated them all—and many more spies, terrorists, and criminals besides. 

Listed below, grouped according to our top investigative priorities and related categories, are many of our famous and most significant cases over the past century.

The monographs and write-ups below have been made available for your use. You may download them for any non-commercial use without obtaining permission from the FBI. If you don’t see a case listed here, try our search engine or history story index.

Featured Case


Results: 102 Items

  • 9/11 Investigation

    They were the most lethal terrorist attacks in history, taking the lives of 3,000 Americans and international citizens and ultimately leading to far-reaching changes in anti-terror approaches and operations in the U.S. and around the globe.


    On February 2, 1980, the world learned of our high-level investigation into public corruption and organized crime, infamously code-named ABSCAM.

  • Al Capone

    Alphonse Gabriel “Al” Capone rose to infamy as a gangster in Chicago during the 1920s and early 1930s.

  • Alcatraz Escape

    The fate of three men—Frank Morris, John Anglin, and his brother Clarence Anglin—who made a daring escape from an isolated island prison in 1962 remains a mystery to this day.

  • Aldrich Ames

    CIA case officer Aldrich Ames spied for the Russians for nearly a decade before his arrest in 1994.

  • Alger Hiss

    Alger Hiss was convicted of perjury in 1950, following a lengthy espionage investigation by the FBI and its partners.

  • Amerithrax or Anthrax Investigation

    Soon after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, letters laced with anthrax began appearing in the U.S. mail. Five Americans were killed and 17 were sickened in what became the worst biological attacks in U.S. history.

  • Ana Montes: Cuban Spy

    Defense Intelligence Agency Analyst Ana Montes pled guilty in 2002 to passing U.S. secrets to Cuba.

  • Atom Spy Case/Rosenbergs

    Using intelligence, the FBI uncovered an espionage ring run by Julius and Ethel Rosenberg that passed secrets on the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union.

  • Baptist Street Church Bombing

    A 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church by the KKK claims the lives of four African-American girls.

  • Barker/Karpis Gang

    Alvin “Creepy” Karpis and his Barker brother sidekicks robbed banks and trains and engineered two major kidnappings of rich business executives in the 1930s.

  • Beltway Snipers

    In October 2002, two snipers terrorized the Washington, D.C. area, killing 10 people and critically injuring three before a multi-agency investigation tracked them down.

  • Bernie Madoff Case

    Bernie Madoff, a financial investor whose skill and track record was so legendary that people begged to open accounts with his firm, crashed hard in December 2008 when the truth finally came out: All of his investments and tantalizing returns were lies. Madoff ran history's biggest Ponzi scheme.

  • Billie Austin Bryant

    On January 8, 1969, escaped federal prisoner Billie Austin Bryant killed Special Agents Edwin R. Woodriffe and Anthony Palmisano.

  • Black Dahlia

    The 1947 murder of a 22-year-old Hollywood hopeful in Los Angeles has never been solved.

  • Black Tom 1916 Bombing

    On July 30, 1916, German agents blew up the Black Tom railroad yard in New Jersey, killing four in a clear act of sabotage.

  • Bonnie and Clyde

    Notorious crime couple Clyde Champion Barrow and Bonnie Parker were shot to death by officers in an ambush near Sailes, Bienville Parish, Louisiana on May 23, 1934, after one of the most extensive manhunts the nation had seen up to that time.

  • Boston Marathon Bombing

    On April 15, 2013, as runners from around the world were cheered by thousands of spectators lining the streets for the 117th Boston Marathon, two self-radicalized brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, executed the largest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. They detonated two powerful explosives near the finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 500 others.

  • Brady Gang

    After the death of John Dillinger, a new gang of bad guys looking to make a name for themselves came onto the scene.

  • Brian P. Regan Espionage

    A former Air Force intelligence officer steals thousands of classified documents and tries to sell them to China, Iraq, and Libya before his arrest in August 2001.

  • Brink’s Robbery

    A 1950 robbery of a Brinks bank in Boston by men in masks sets of a massive search for those responsible.

  • Charles Ross Kidnapping

    The FBI investigates the abduction and murder of a Chicago greeting card executive in 1937.

  • D.B. Cooper Hijacking

    A man who parachuted out of an airplane in 1971 with a bag full of stolen cash has never been seen again in one of the great unsolved mysteries in FBI history.

  • Duquesne Spy Ring

    On January 2, 1942, following a lengthy investigation by the FBI, 33 members of a Nazi spy ring headed by Frederick Joubert Duquesne were sentenced to serve a total of over 300 years in prison.

  • Durkin - Murder of an FBI Agent

    On October 11, 1925, Edwin C. Shanahan became the first Bureau agent killed in the line of duty.

  • East African Embassy Bombings

    On August 7, 1998, nearly simultaneous bombs blew up in front of the American embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Two hundred and twenty-four people died in the blasts, including 12 Americans, and more than 4,500 people were wounded.

  • Emmett Till

    The tragic 1955 murder of an African-American teenager in Mississippi shocks the nation.

  • Enron

    The collapse of energy company in December 2001 precipitated what would become the most complex white-collar crime investigation in the FBI’s history.

  • Eric Rudolph

    Between 1996 to 1998, bombs exploded four times in Atlanta and Birmingham, killing two and injuring hundreds and setting off what turned out to be a five-year manhunt for the suspected bomber Eric Robert Rudolph.

  • Espionage in the Defense Industry

    A Russian spy attempts to lure defense secrets from a New York engineer in the 1970s.

  • Fawaz Younis/Operation Goldenrod

    On September 13, 1987, Fawaz Younis became the first international terrorist to be apprehended overseas and brought back to the United States to stand trial.

  • Frank Sinatra, Jr., Kidnapping

    On December 8, 1963, a group of amateur criminals hoping to strike it rich engineered one of the most infamous kidnappings in American history.

  • Fur Dressers Case

    Louis "Lepke" Buchalter and his gang of mobsters were busted thanks to an FBI investigation into a fur dressing racket in the 1930s.

  • George “Machine Gun” Kelly

    Kelly and his gang kidnapped a wealthy oil magnate in 1933 and as legend has it, famously gave agents their "G-men" moniker upon his arrest.

  • Gerhard Arthur Puff

    On July 26, 1952, Gerhard Arthur Puff was arrested in a hotel lobby in New York City after he shot and killed FBI Special Agent Joseph J. Brock.

  • Greenlease Kidnapping

    The 1953 kidnapping of a six-year-old boy by a pair of criminals ends tragically.

  • Harvey's Casino Bomb

    A bomb rolled into Harvey’s Resort Hotel and Casino in Stateline, Nevada, in August 1980 led to one of the FBI's most unusual cases.

  • Hijacking of TWA Flight 847

    Mohammed Ali Hamadei and his accomplice hijacked TWA Flight 847 and murdered a U.S. Navy diver in 1985.

  • Hollow Nickel/Rudolf Abel

    A hollow nickel found by a Brooklyn newspaper boy leads to the identification of a Russian spy in 1957.

  • Hurricane Katrina Fraud

    The FBI responds following a massive hurricane in August 2005, helping to prevent crime and fraud.

  • Iva Toguri D’Aquino and “Tokyo Rose”

    Iva Toguri Aquino, who gained notoriety as the mythical Tokyo Rose, was the seventh person to be convicted of treason in U.S. history.

  • Jack Gilbert Graham

    When United Air Lines Flight 629 blows up in mid-air in 1955, FBI agents painstakingly piece together the clues to identify the bomber.

  • James Edward Testerman

    Charles Joseph Lovett and James Edward Testerman were sentenced to life in prison for murdering FBI Agent Hubert J. Treacy, Jr. on March 13, 1942.

  • JFK Assassination

    After conducting some 25,000 interviews and running down tens of thousands of investigative leads, the FBI found that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

  • Joe Pistone, Undercover Agent

    A New York agent's masterful undercover work helped take down Mafia leaders in the 1980s.

  • John Dillinger

    John Herbert Dillinger, Jr. was a Midwestern bank robber, auto thief, and fugitive who captured the national imagination until the FBI caught up with him in 1934.

  • John Elgin Johnson

    On September 25, 1953, Special Agent J. Brady Murphy was mortally wounded in a gun battle with John Elgin Johnson in a Baltimore, Maryland movie theater.

  • John Gotti

    The FBI and its partners finally put away a ruthless New York mobster and head of the Gambino crime family in the 1990s.

  • Jonestown

    The FBI investigates a murder of a Congressman and a mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana in the late 1970s.

  • Joseph Edward Earlywine

    Special Agent William R. Ramsey was killed on May 3, 1938 while attempting to arrest alleged robbers of a Lapel, Indiana bank.

  • Judge Vance Murder

    The FBI hunts down a serial bomber who killed a federal judge and an Atlanta attorney in the late 1980s.

  • Kansas City Massacre and “Pretty Boy” Floyd

    A mass murder committed in front of a railway station in Kansas City, Missouri in June 1933 shocked the American public and led to new crime laws.

  • KKK Series

    This series details the work of the FBI to protect the American people—especially minorities—from the evils of the modern-day Klan.

  • Krupp Diamond Theft

    The theft of a valuable diamond ring in 1959 leads the FBI on a chase across the country.

  • Lester Gillis (“Baby Face” Nelson)

    Nelson was a ruthless and violent gangster who killed three FBI agents and many others before being taken down in a firefight with the Bureau in 1934.

  • Lindbergh Kidnapping

    When the son of the famed aviator Charles Lindbergh was kidnapped in 1932, the FBI and its new crime laboratory played a key supporting role.

  • Ludwig Spy Ring

    A fatal traffic accident in 1941 helps the FBI uncover a German spy ring headed by Kurt Frederick Ludwig.

  • Maksim Martynov

    Maksim Martynov, a member of the Soviet delegation to the United Nations, is identified as a spy in the 1950s.

  • Medgar Evers

    Justice is finally served in the 1963 murder of a civil rights activist in Jackson, Mississippi.

  • Melissa Virus

    A few decades ago, computer viruses were still relatively new notions to most Americans, but the fast-moving and destructive Melissa virus changed that in a significant way and showed many the darker side of the web.

  • Millennium Plot/Ahmed Ressam

    Arrested in December 1999 as he was about to enter the country, Ahmed Ressam was convicted of planning to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on the eve of the millennium celebrations.

  • Mississippi Burning

    The murder of three civil rights workers in Mississippi in 1964 turned into one of Bureau’s biggest investigations of the era.

  • Morris Worm

    In 1988, a graduate student unleashed the first major attack on the Internet and became the first person convicted of a new type of crime.

  • Nazi Saboteurs and George Dasch

    In June 1942, German subs dropped off four saboteurs each in Long Island and northeastern Florida, but one of the men got cold feet and turned himself in to the FBI.

  • ND-98: Case of the Long Island Double Agent

    An FBI double agent code-named ND-98 provides disinformation to the Germans during World War II that helps the Allied cause.

  • Nussbaum and Wilcoxson

    The FBI tracks down two dangerous and prolific bank robbers and Top Ten fugitives in the 1960s.

  • Oklahoma City Bombing

    The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995 was the deadliest act of homegrown terrorism in U.S. history, resulting in the deaths of 168 people.

  • Operation Greylord

    Named after the curly wigs worn by British judges, Operation Greylord rooted out corruption in the Cook County, Illinois courts in the 1980s.

  • Operation Illwind

    It's the largest and most successful investigation of defense procurement fraud in U.S. history.

  • Operation Innocent Images

    In 1993, agents working a missing child case discovered something startling: pedophiles were transmitting sexually explicit images of minors via the Internet.

  • Operation Lemon Aid Spy Case

    The FBI uses a double agent to root out Soviet spies and learn their tradecraft in the 1970s.

  • Operation Senior Sentinel

    A far-reaching investigation into telemarketing fraud in the 1990s nets hundreds of convictions across the nation.

  • Operation Stolen Dreams

    A massive, multi-agency initiative launched on March 1, 2010 took on the insidious problem of mortgage fraud.

  • Osage Murders Case

    In May 1921, the badly decomposed body of Anna Brown—an Osage Native American—was found in a remote ravine in northern Oklahoma.

  • Osama bin Laden

    Osama bin Laden was a violent terrorist and founder of al Qaeda who killed thousands of innocent men, women, and children before his death in 2011.

  • Palmer Raids

    A wave of bombings in 1919 led to an ill-conceived roundup of radicals the following year.

  • Pan Am 103 Bombing

    On December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 people on board—including 190 Americans—and 11 Scots on the ground.

  • Patty Hearst

    The kidnapping of the granddaughter of a newspaper magnate in 1974 becomes one of the strangest cases in FBI history.

  • Pearl Harbor Spy

    On February 21, 1942, just 76 days after the tragic attack on Pearl Harbor, Bernard Julius Otto Kuehn was found guilty of spying in Honolulu.

  • Pizza Connection

    Several decades after the bust of a vast, long-running Mafia drug conspiracy that touched four continents, the Pizza Connection case continues to pay dividends for partnerships, policing, and public safety.

  • RESMURS Case (Reservation Murders)

    On June 26, 1975, FBI Agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams were murdered by Leonard Peltier at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

  • Richard Floyd McCoy, Jr.

    In 1972, a man hijacked an United Airlines flight and parachuted from the plane over Utah with ransom money.

  • Robert Hanssen

    On February 18, 2001, Robert Philip Hanssen was arrested and charged with committing espionage on behalf of the intelligence services of the former Soviet Union and its successors.

  • Roger “The Terrible” Touhy

    In the latter part of 1933 and the early part of 1934, the Chicago gang of Roger “The Terrible” Touhy was smashed.

  • Rumrich Nazi Spy Case

    In 1938, three Nazi spies were found guilty of espionage in our first major international spy case.

  • Tennessee Waltz

    A landmark public corruption investigation in Tennessee leads to numerous convictions and new state laws.

  • Thomas Capano and the Murder of Anne Marie Fahey

    Following an exhaustive investigation, prominent Delaware lawyer Thomas Capano was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his lover in June 1996.

  • Thwarted Sabotage in Zambia

    The FBI prevents American citizens from carrying out an act of sabotage in Zambia in the 1960s.

  • Unabomber

    A lone bomber terrorized the nation for nearly 20 years, planting bombs that killed three Americans and injured many more before his capture in 1996.

  • USS Cole Bombing

    On October 12, 2000, suicide terrorists exploded a small boat alongside the USS Cole as it was refueling in the Yemeni port of Aden, killing 17 American sailors.

  • Vasilli Zubilin

    A mysterious letter identifies Soviet spies in the United States during World War II, including diplomat Vasilli Zubilin.

  • Velvalee Dickinson, the “Doll Woman”

    A New York doll shop owner used correspondence to conceal details about U.S. naval forces she was attempting to convey to Japan in World War II.

  • Vonsiatsky Espionage

    A major espionage ring led by a naturalized American citizen from Russia is broken up by the FBI during World War II.

  • Wall Street Bombing 1920

    The unsolved bombing of Wall Street in 1920, which killed 30 people and injured several hundred, remains a mystery to this day.

  • Watergate

    A burglary at a D.C. hotel in 1972 leads to a massive public corruption investigation and the President’s resignation.

  • Weather Underground Bombings

    The radical Weather Underground launched a bombing campaign across the United States beginning in the late 1960s.

  • Weinberger Kidnapping

    When one-month-old Peter Weinberger was kidnapped from his home on July 4, 1956, the FBI launched a massive case that led to a tragic discovery.

  • Weyerhaeuser Kidnapping

    In 1935, the FBI helped recover a young boy from a prominent family who was kidnapped and held for ransom.

  • William Jefferson

    A sitting member of the U.S. Congress from Louisiana is convicted of taking bribes.

  • Willie Sutton

    The man who said he robbed banks “because that’s where the money is” was named one of the first fugitives to the Top Ten list.

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