This Is When Pablo Escobar Started His Criminal Life

Dubbed "The King of Cocaine" and "El Patron" (the boss), Pablo Escobar was once the most infamous drug lord and narcoterrorist in the world. He was also the richest ever.

At the peak of the cocaine trade in the 1980s, Escobar was earning $420 million a week in revenue (per Business Insider). And at the time of his death in 1993, Escobar was worth an estimated US $30 billion (the equivalent to US $59 billion today), making him the wealthiest criminal in history. In fact, when Forbes debuted its now-famous "billionaires list" in 1987, Escobar was included as one of the "100 richest people in the world." He was listed as number 7.

However, Escobar's criminal history started long before he became the billionaire leader of the Medellin Cartel. According to Britannica, Escobar was just a teenager when a life of crime started calling his name. His first transgression? Selling counterfeit diplomas.

Criminal life paid off very quickly for Escobar

Escobar was soon ready to branch out. In addition to diplomas, he started selling fake report cards and contraband cigarettes, stealing cars and even sanding down stolen tombstones so they could be resold (via Britannica).

In the early 1970s, Escobar started working for contraband smuggler Alvaro Prieto, and by the age of 22, he had become a millionaire, eventually with the estate (above) to go with the money. Escobar would have probably continued in the contraband business if not for the fact that it was becoming too dangerous to try to smuggle alcohol and cigarettes in large quantities (per Daily Record).

Eventually, Escobar realized there was a lot more money to be made in cocaine. After all, one single truck full of drugs was easier to move (and a lot more valuable) than dozens of trucks carrying anything else.

During this time, the cocaine trade was also taking off in the US, and Colombia was becoming a prime distributor because of its ideal geographical location as a drug trade route.

The rise to power was quick and bloody

Escobar saw an opportunity open up when drug trafficker Fabio Restrepo was murdered in 1975. Escobar jumped right in (per Biography). Or maybe he created that opportunity himself, as the rumors were always that Escobar ordered Restrepo's killing so he could seize power over the growing cocaine trade in Colombia, according to Biography.

Escobar's drug empire started with the smuggling of coca paste into Miami. Although he first used mules to move the drugs, by 1977 he was stuffing Cessna planes with hundreds of kg of cocaine. When the Drug Enforcement Agency figured out what was happening and started catching the Cessnas as they landed, Escobar switched to using vintage military cargo planes instead (via ABS CBN News). While the Cessna were able to move 250 kg of drugs at a time, the Boeing 727s could carry 11 tons (1000 kg) in one trip, according to ABS CBN News.