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Celebrities connected to infamous criminals

Being a celebrity isn't always glamorous. Oftentimes, the wealthy and powerful attract some pretty scary and shady people. Some of these crooks just want to hang out with superstars, others are looking to steal, others have murder on their minds. But whatever the reason, criminals are pretty skilled when it comes to inserting themselves into the lives of celebrities.

Gary Sinise and David Hampton

According to the old stereotype, con men only take advantage of greedy people, but that's not always the case. Take David Hampton, for example. A 19-year-old impostor, Hampton fooled Manhattan elites into believing he was the son of Oscar-winning actor Sidney Poitier. Generally, Hampton would contact a wealthy New Yorker, make the claim, say he was friends with his victim's kids and, well, he hated to impose, but he'd just been mugged so ... could he stay the night, please? A shocking amount of people told Hampton "okay," including Emmy-winning actor Gary Sinise. Best known for Forrest Gump and CSI: NY, Sinise was starring in an Off-Broadway show during the early '80s. After each performance, he spent the night in an apartment owned by Melanie Griffith and Steven Bauer. But one evening, as Sinise was trying to catch some z's, Hampton showed up, claiming he was Poitier's son, and he was friends with Griffith and Bauer, and since he'd just missed his flight to L.A., he needed a place to sleep. Even though Sinise had "a bad feeling about letting him stay," he allowed the teen to crash on the sofa. The next morning, Sinise took Hampton out to breakfast and gave the guy ten bucks. Luckily, all he lost was those ten bucks. When he later told Griffith about his odd encounter, the actress said she'd run into Hampton before and "that he was nuts." But while Sinise went on to have a successful career, Hampton was busted on larceny and impersonation charges, and sentenced to 21 months behind bars. After his release, the con man continued his crooked ways, until he died of AIDS complications in 2003. As for Sidney Poitier, the actor never commented on Hampton's crimes. Probably for the best.

Muhammad Ali and Frank Lucas

When Muhammad Ali fought Joe Frazier in 1971, people called it the "Fight of the Century." Politicians like Ted Kennedy and Spiro Agnew showed up for the match, and celebrities like Woody Allen, Barbra Streisand, and Miles Davis were all in attendance. Actor Burt Lancaster provided commentary, and Frank Sinatra was ringside, working as a photographer for Life magazine. Yes, that Frank Sinatra. But the bout also drew the seedier elements of society, such as Frank Lucas. A kingpin who conquered Harlem in the 1960s, Lucas was an underworld entrepreneur who netted $50 million thanks to his incredibly powerful "Blue Magic" heroin. Lucas was such a powerful figure that, when Ali and Frazier fought at Madison Square Garden, he got a better seat than the Mafia bosses. Lucas also showed up for the match sporting a floor-length chinchilla coat and an equally furry hat. While some claim that ensemble cost $60,000, Lucas claims it came with a far-heftier price tag: $125,000. But whatever the price, Lucas believes this outrageous getup is what ultimately brought him down. According to the gangster, he was unknown to law enforcement before the Ali-Frazier fight. However, when detectives spotted Lucas wearing that coat, they supposedly became suspicious of his wealth, and decided to investigate him. But according to Richard Roberts, the prosecutor who brought Lucas down, law enforcement knew of Lucas before the Fight of the Century. However, he did admit the coat "brought a lot more attention onto him," saying, "You don't go around showing that kind of money when the people who are trying to arrest you are making...$25,000 a year...It gets these guys a little angry." In other words, this is the only time a fashion crime has ever actually put someone behind bars.

Robert Kardashian and OJ Simpson

For his famous double-homicide case, OJ Simpson assembled a crack legal team. Out of all the high-profile lawyers on the "Dream Team," though, none were as personally connected to the case as Robert Kardashian. The ex-husband of Kris Jenner and father of Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, and KRob, Kardashian had met Simpson in 1969, and the two became best friends. Simpson actually served as an usher at Kardashian's wedding, and Kris Jenner became incredibly close with Nicole Brown. Kardashian even encouraged his kids to call Simpson by the not-at-all-creepy nickname, "Uncle Juice." So when his buddy was accused of murder, Kardashian reactivated his 20-years-expired law license so he could help defend Simpson. In one dramatic episode, moments before the infamous Bronco chase, Kardashian even convinced Simpson not to commit suicide (he had considered shooting himself while in Khloe's bedroom). During the case, the lawyer often visited his friend behind bars, and when photos were shown of Brown's body, Kardashian sat next to Simpson to help him keep his composure (and to block the cameras). However, the mounting evidence against Simpson took a toll on Kardashian — while the athlete was found not guilty, even the attorney wasn't so sure anymore. As Kardashian explained in 1996, "I have doubts." So do we all, Rob. So do we all.

Fats Waller and Al Capone

A father of modern jazz music, Thomas Wright "Fats" Waller was a beloved pianist back in the 1920s. The man influenced the likes of Thelonious Monk and worked on a couple of Broadway musicals. Two of his hit songs, "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Honeysuckle Rose," were posthumously inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and Waller won fans across the US and Europe. In fact, the man had some pretty powerful groupies, including Al "Scarface" Capone, and one day, Waller had the misfortune of meeting his number-one fan. The pianist had just finished performing at Chicago's Sherman House Hotel when four thugs showed up out of nowhere, grabbed the musician, and tossed him i a limousine. Waller was terrified as the gangsters whizzed him across town and forced him inside the Hawthorn Inn. There, he found himself in the middle of a swinging party ... Al Capone's 30th birthday, to be exact. The thugs planned on giving Waller as a present to their big-time boss. Over the next three days, Waller was forced to play tunes for the mob boss. Despite that initial scare, though, the gig worked out pretty well for the pianist, and not just because he didn't die. Capone gave Waller thousands of dollars in tips, and introduced him to the high-class world of fine champagne. By the time the party was done, Waller was drunk, tired, and loaded down with cash, a way better fate than being loaded down with cement shoes.

Georges St-Pierre and Jimmy Cournoyer

Widely considered an all-time great MMA fighters, Georges St-Pierre has bruised and battered some of the baddest men on the planet. The two-time UFC welterweight champ has also starred in films like Captain America: Winter Soldier, campaigned for fighters' rights, and pushed for stricter UFC drug tests. Unfortunately, the MMA hero found himself mired in controversy in 2014, when it was revealed he was tight with one of North America's most notorious drug lords. In 2009, St-Pierre met Jimmy Cournoyer, a French-Canadian with a black belt in karate. The two bonded over their love of martial arts, and became such good friends, they once celebrated Cournoyer's birthday on the Spanish island of Ibiza. (Even Leonardo DiCaprio showed up for the party.) But according to St-Pierre, he didn't know his BFF was actually the "King of Pot." Not just pot, either — Cournoyer ran a massive drug cartel that smuggled marijuana, cocaine, and ecstasy across the Canadian-American border, and the kingpin employed a who's-who of nasty villains. The drug lord hired Hell's Angels to sneak weed into the US aboard 18-wheelers, used Native American smugglers to carry pot on motorboats and snowmobiles, made deals with associates of the Bonanno crime family, and laundered cash through the Sinaloa drug cartel. The man was worth around $1 billion, $2 million of which he allegedly set aside to "punish" anyone who interfered with his business. But in 2007, the DEA began pursuing the "Pot Playboy," and in 2014, Cournoyer was sentenced to 27 years behind bars. Wanting to help his friend transfer to a Canadian prison, St-Pierre wrote a letter on Cournoyer's behalf. However, when the media discovered their connection, the welterweight was forced to apologize, declaring he hadn't known Cournoyer was a drug dealer. After all, plenty of people drive Bugattis worth $1.3 million.

Richard Linklater and Bernie Tiede

In 2007, director Richard Linklater won critical acclaim for his Lone Star comedy, Bernie, which told the story of Bernie Tiede, a 40-something mortician from Carthage, Texas. In both the film and real-life, Tiede got involved with a wealthy, elderly widow named Marjorie Nugent, who took Tiede around the world — together, the couple went on cruises and expensive vacations until the party came to a crashing halt in 1996, when Tiede shot Nugent in the back four times and stuffed her body in a freezer. For the next nine months, Tiede continued spending Nugent's fortune, although he spent quite a bit of cash buying gifts for friends. On one occasion, he even paid $13,000 for a man's tuition. (It should be noted that the prosecution argued that, probably not incorrectly, Tiede killed Nugent because she caught him stealing her money.) Eventually, Tiede was busted and sentenced to life, but his story exploded after Linklater's film, especially after an attorney named Jodi Cole was inspired to do a little digging. Cole soon discovered Tiede had been sexually abused as a boy. Arguing this caused Tiede to snap after Nugent psychologically abused him, Cole convinced the Texas government to give the mortician a new trial. But there was a slight catch — Tiede would be released on bond, but he would have to live with ... Richard Linklater. The director agreed to let Tiede stay in his Austin apartment, and even raised money for Tiede's legal defense. However, the jury didn't buy the story and, in 2016, Tiede was sent back to prison for life. It's a damn good thing this didn't set a precedent — otherwise, Whitey Bulger might be free, chilling with Johnny Depp and using all his toilet paper because who's going to stop him.

Sean Connery, Lana Turner, and Johnny Stompanato

Lana Turner was a blonde bombshell who appeared in Oscar-nominated movies, not to mention thousands of G.I. lockers as a popular pinup model. But while she was a superstar, she wasn't as successful when it came to relationships. The actress went through seven husbands, not to mention numerous boyfriends. One of her lovers was Johnny Stompanato, a gangster who worked for L.A. crime boss, Mickey Cohen. As Mickey Cohen's enforcer, Stompanato knew a thing or two about picking fights, and he often got violent with his celebrity girlfriend — on one occasion, he held a razor to Turner's face. Another time, the gangster believed Turner was having an affair with pre-Bond Sean Connery. Furious, Stompanato flew to England, and supposedly pulled a gun on Connery. According to Hollywood lore, the he-man actor slugged the gangster in the face. Whether or not that actually happened (though we prefer to think it absolutely did), Turner was ready to ditch her homicidal boyfriend — in 1958, she told the gangster they were done. Stompanato didn't take this well (as homicidal maniacs are wont to do) and allegedly threatened Turner, her mom, and her daughter, Cheryl Crane (as homicidal maniacs are also wont to do). Worried the gangster might carry through on her threats, Crane grabbed a butcher knife and stabbed Stompanato to death. After the killing, Sean Connery went into hiding, worried the mob might think he was responsible for the stabbing. As for Crane, the killing was ruled a justifiable homicide, but she spent several years battling drug and alcohol abuse. Eventually, she was able to salvage her life, become a real estate agent, and tell her story in a 1988 autobiography. As for Turner, her career survived the incident, and her relationship with Stompanato inspired one of the best moments in Curtis Hanson's film noir, L.A. Confidential. See, sometimes crime can pay — just not for the criminal.

Gianni Versace and Andrew Cunanan

The New York Times once described Gianni Versace as "the man who brought rock, art, sexuality, and brilliant color into contemporary fashion." Critics loved his work because, in an era where designers were growing dull, Versace was inspired by what was happening on the street and in pop culture. He also understood the power of celebrity, and big names like Jon Bon Jovi and Patricia Arquette appeared in his marketing campaigns. He designed outfits for performers like Madonna and Tina Turner, and helped Elizabeth Hurley grab the spotlight with a black dress held together with gold safety pins. Versace asked Prince to write songs for his fashion shows, created clothing for Courtney Love, and was friends with Elton John, Mike Tyson, and Princess Diana. There's no telling where Versace could've gone with his career, if it weren't for 27-year-old Andrew Cunanan. A man who dreamed of living like the rich and famous, Cunanan worked as a gay escort, targeting older men who would give him expensive gifts. The man was also a notorious liar, posing as everything from an Army intelligence officer to a Titanic producer, and he was obsessed with both sadomasochistic porn and Tom Cruise. Eventually, Cunanan's violent tendencies had real-world consequences. Between April and June 1997, Cunanan killed four men before showing up at Versace's Miami Beach house. As the 50-year-old designer was walking home on July 15, Cunanan shot him twice in the head before fleeing. Soon, Cunanan was on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List, but the notoriety didn't last long. Days later, the killer was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot, just miles away from Versace's home. It was a bloody ending to a disturbing tale, one twisted enough to be told in an upcoming season of American Crime Story.

Sean Penn and Richard Ramirez

There's no denying Sean Penn is a talented actor, though he's just as skilled at stirring up controversy. In one case, that skill sent him to the clink — Penn was sentenced to serve 60 days for driving recklessly and punching an extra on the set of his film Colors. However, despite his stardom, Penn wasn't the most famous guy in lockup. As is turns out, the actor was behind bars with Richard Ramirez, one of the most notorious serial killers in US history. Known as the "Night Stalker," Ramirez was convicted of violently murdering 13 people– evidently, he was also a big fan of Sean Penn. According to Penn, the killer asked a guard to pass along a note that read, "Hey Penn, stay tough and hit them again—Richard Ramirez, 666." The guard also explained Ramirez wanted Penn's autograph. The movie star complied, sending the Night Stalker a strongly-worded letter that went: "Richard, it's impossible to be incarcerated and not feel a certain kinship with your fellow inmates. Well, Richard, I've done the impossible. I feel absolutely no kinship with you. And I hope gas descends upon you before sanity does...it would be a kinder way out." Those are strong words from the guy who starred in Dead Man Walking. Despite Penn's ill wishes, Ramirez was never executed for his crimes, instead, dying of health complications on Death Row. As for Penn, he decided to keep the Night Stalker's note, until it burned up in a 2007 house fire. That's a pretty ironic twist, considering Ramirez thought he'd spend eternity burning in Hell. Spoiler: he was right.