15 Surprising Ex-Convicts Who Made it Big

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This is a list of 15 Surprising Ex-Convicts Who Made it Big.  These former convicts prove that no matter the circumstances, anyone can overcome challenges and change the course of their lives to become a success.


11. Daniel Manville

He served three years and four months in jail for manslaughter. While in jail he studied law and earned two college degrees. After he got out he went to law school, he passed the bar.  He began representing both prison guards and inmates in civil cases. Currently, he teaches law at Michigan State University.






Uchendi2. Uchendi Nwani

Uchendi Nwani served six and a half months of hard labor at a federal boot camp.  He was found guilty of drug dealing. After his time in jail, he lived in a halfway house.  He cut hair at the university salon and resumed his studies. He opened his own barber shop after graduation. He now travels nationwide, and motivating others to follow their dreams.






3. Eugene Brown

Eugene Brown as found guilty of attempted robbery.  He served time in a New Jersey prison where he met his future mentor, a man named Massey.  Massey taught him how to play chess. When Brown realized that chess was a metaphor for life, he established a chess club and taught lessons of life. Brown became a successful businessman.  In 2014 Cuba Gooding, Jr. stared as Eugene Brown in a movie based on his life.





4. Jeff Henderson

Jeff Henderson served ten years for dealing and manufacturing cocaine. During his time in prison he discovered cooking. Released for good behavior, he worked as a chef in LA before moving to Las Vegas. Currently he works at Caesar’s Palace, earning top recognition and rewards as a chef.



mark chopper

5. Mark “Chopper” Read

Mark Read was from Australia.  He robbed drug dealers during and was recognizable by his many tattoos and cut-off ears. He served multiple years in jail for attempting to abduct a judge and armed robbery. During his time behind bars he wrote several best-selling crime novels. Eric Bana starred in a movie about his life in 2000.



6. Robert Downey, Jr

Robert Downey, Jr served jail time for multiple drug-related charges.  These charges involved heroin, marijuana and cocaine. He also failed in many attempts to rehabilitate himself.  Drug treatment programs were not working. Downey was candid about his battle with addiction.  He has since enjoyed a comeback and has starred in several blockbuster films including Ironman.





"Men in Black II" Premiere

7. Tim Allen

Before Tim Allen became famous, he served two years and four months in the Federal Correctional Institution for cocaine possession and drug trafficking. He turned his life around in prison and became a famous Hollywood actor.






slater8. Christian Slater

Christian Slater suffered setbacks when he served 59 days in jail after assault on his girlfriend.  He also assaulted a police officer. Having prior arrests for drunk driving, boarding a plane with a gun and other assault charges, rehab gave him a second chance at success.  He turn his career around and enjoyed a comeback.







9. 50 Cent

Curtis Jackson III (aka 50 Cent) served a six-month boot camp sentence for drug-related charges. While in prison, he earned his GED and was determined to make it as a rapper. His first album was a hit, and he continues to make music along with other business aspirations.




10. Danny Trejo

Danny Trejo was in and out of prisons for charges relating to both robbery and drugs. He turned his life around and kicked addiction. He now plays the tough guy onscreen in many television shows and action films.








11. Frank William Abagnale

When Frank William Abagnale was 16 years old when he began his career pretending to be a doctor, college professor, lawyer and airline pilot. Eventually he wrote $2.5 million in fraudulent checks. He went to prison for five years. After cooperating with the government  he runs a consulting firm that helps agencies debunk fraud. A movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks was made based on his life story.






12. Junior Johnson

Junior Johnson went to jail for smuggling illegal alcohol in North Carolina.  Then he became a NASCAR driver. He credits his early transports as training for his later career, where he has won 50 races. A highway in his hometown bears his name.




13. Malcolm X

Before he was known as Malcolm X, Malcolm Little says he committed acts of petty larceny while hustling in Harlem and Boston. Malcolm eventually converted to Islam and became a powerful leader, preaching messages of peace and standing up for African-American rights.







14. Mukhtar Gusengajiev

Mukhtar Gusengajiev served three years in prison for fighting. He began to study both mediation and flexibility. Once released he performed in a circus and acted in a movie with Jean-Claude Van Damme. The movie was never released but Mukhtar ended up in Las Vegas where he became world-famous for his extreme flexibility. He now performs around the world and gives motivational speeches about reaching goals.





220px-Eugène-François_Vidocq15. Eugene-Francois Vidocq

Frenchman Eugene-Francois Vidocq was jailed multiple times for false identity and theft. He turned his life around and began to work with police as a spy. The modern-day French National Police force was founded by his tactics and expertise. His stories are also the basis of Arthur Conan Doyle’s infamous Sherlock Holmes.

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