John Paul Getty III

  • Kidnappers looking for a major payout will often target the heirs of wealthy individuals.
  • Some famous abductions have ended in tragedy when the abductors killed their victim.
  • In other cases, the kidnapped heir survived their ordeal.
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Being the heir to an extraordinary fortune comes with its own set of risks.

Namely, having a familial link to an uber-wealthy person could prompt an unscrupulous person to kidnap you for ransom.

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The abduction of rich and prominent heirs often generates a considerable amount of media scrutiny. In some instances, the victim is returned relatively unscathed. Other cases throughout the years have resulted in more sinister and tragic outcomes. 

Here’s a look at a number of heirs to massive fortunes who were kidnapped — and one who vanished without a trace: 

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The Lindbergh baby’s kidnapping sparked a media frenzy and new laws.

The Lindbergh kidnapping is one of the most famous abductions of all time.

Not only did the crime spark intense — and enduring — scrutiny, but the disappearance and murder of 20-month-old Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr. prompted Congress to designate inter-state kidnapping as a federal crime.

The facts of the case, as recounted on the FBI’s official site, are well-known: the first child of aviator Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh was taken from his bedroom on the evening of March 1, 1932.

The kidnapper left behind a ransom note demanding $50,000 for the baby’s safe return, and several more ransom demands would follow in the days to come. 

Tragically, Charles Jr.’s body was found on May 12, and it was determined that he’d been killed by a blow to the head shortly after he was taken, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

Bruno Hauptmann was eventually arrested in connection with the kidnap-murder, and he was executed via the electric chair in 1936.

Frank Sinatra’s son was held for a $240,000 ransom.

On December 8, 1963, Frank Sinatra Jr. was relaxing with a friend in the dressing room at the Harrah’s Club Lodge in Lake Tahoe. The 19-year-old singer was in the midst of following his famous father’s footsteps and starting his own career in the music business.

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Around 9 p.m., two armed men barged into the room, tied up Sinatra’s friend, and made off with the son of one of the most famous singers in the world.

According to the FBI’s account of the case, the trio of kidnappers — Barry Keenan, Joe Amsler, and John Irwin — called up Frank Sinatra Sr. The singer offered to pay $1 million, but the abductors demanded a $240,000 ransom instead. 

According to The Washington Post, Keenan later revealed that the gang initially considered abducting Bob Hope’s son, but considered that idea too “un-American.”

After photographing the dollar bills used in the ransom payment, FBI agents subsequently dropped the money off on December 11. Sinatra Jr. was freed, unharmed. Irwin confessed the crime to his brother, who promptly called the FBI. All three kidnappers were convicted.

Keenan, the ringleader of the kidnapping, got out of jail after five years. According to the Post, he went on to make a fortune in real estate.

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A millionaire’s son was abducted in 1953, prompting the biggest ransom in American history at the time.

On September 28, 1953, a woman visited an exclusive Catholic school in Kansas City, bearing troubling news.

She told a nun that she was the aunt of six-year-old Bobby Greenlease, and that she needed to collect the boy since his mother had just suffered a heart attack.

But the woman, Bonnie Emily Brown Heady, and her partner, Carl Austin Hall, had no intentions of reuniting Greenlease with his parents. After making off with the elementary schooler, they sent a ransom message to Greenlease’s father and namesake, Robert, a millionaire auto dealer, demanding $600,000 for his son.

The Greenleases complied with the ransom demand, unaware that their son was already gone. After buying him some ice cream, the kidnappers had shot the six-year-old shortly after his abduction, according to the FBI’s account of the case.

Heady and Hall, both unemployed alcoholics, raised suspicion when they dropped thousands of dollars all around St. Louis in a post-abduction spending spree. Police quickly apprehended them, and the couple went to the gas chamber just months later.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider


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