List of Most Wanted Criminals, Fugitives, and Terrorists in the U.S.

Lists of the most wanted criminals
Lists of the most wanted criminals.

The FBI Ten Most Wanted List

The FBI Ten Most Wanted Criminals list arose from a conversation held in late 1949, as J. Edgar Hoover, the Director of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation and William Kinsey Hutchinson of the International News Service (the predecessor of the United Press International) Editor-in-Chief was playing a card game and discussing ways to promote capture of the FBI’s most hardened criminals.

The discussion between the two ultimately turned into a published article, which received a great deal of publicity and hype. As a result, on March 14, 1950, the FBI officially announced the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. The purpose of the list was to create awareness among the general public and increase law enforcement’s ability to capture dangerous fugitives.

How are Criminals Added to and Removed from the List?

The FBI adds the most notorious individuals to the list, such as dangerous criminals, hard-to-catch escapees and fugitives, absconders, missing persons, sex offenders, and bail jumpers. Individuals, which are both men and women (but most often me) are removed from this list when they are captured, killed, or if the charges against them are dropped. Once a slot on the list opens, they are then replaced by a new entry selected by the FBI.

Other Lists of Most Wanted Criminals

In addition to the FBI, a number of organizations maintain their own list of individuals who committed crimes related to their area of focus. Following is a list of websites to help you learn more about the organization and their most current list:

Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) Most Wanted List – The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms maintains a list to help combat violent crime in conjunction with other federal, state, and law enforcement agencies. Criminals are added to the list as a result of ATF investigations that result in the issuance of a federal arrest warrant.

When deciding who should be on the list, the ATF considers a number of factors, including the seriousness of the crime, the person’s criminal history, the potential danger involved, and whether the publicity of being added will help apprehend the individual.

Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) – A person is considered an Air Force Fugitive or Deserter if the member left the Air Force to avoid being investigated or prosecuted and if they had access to classified information that could compromise national security interests.

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations will search for the individual until they are returned to military control. If you have information about a fugitive, call 877-246-1453.

America’s Most Wanted – Formerly a popular TV show, America’s Most Wanted featured information on the most wanted suspects to help create awareness among the general public. Watchers could send in tips to assist in apprehending the fugitives and help locate missing children. The TV show help capture some of the most notorious criminals.

Department of Justice Most Wanted Listing – The DOJ posts an extensive collection of links to fugitives wanted by federal law enforcement agencies. It includes the FBI, ATF, DEA, U.S. Marshals, Terrorists, Cybercrime, Homicides, and more. This is actually a good place to start for many of the other agencies listed here.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – Ten Most Wanted Terrorists – This particular collection includes alleged terrorists who have been indicted by Federal Grand Juries throughout the U.S. The goal of publishing the list is to help law enforcement agencies to arrest and bring the terrorists to justice.

Fugitive Watch – Fugitive Watch was founded in 1992 by two police officers, Steve Ferdin and Scott Castruita. Fugitive Watch is a reality-based television show, newspaper, and website, The TV show features exciting stories on crimes and fugitives. Fugitive Watch has been credited with over 1,000 captures or solving crimes. It has successfully combined law enforcement, local business, and the community into an effective crime-fighting tool. As one law enforcement official stated, “Because of Fugitive Watch, there are thousands of more eyes on the lookout for fugitives”

Secret Service’s Most Wanted Criminals Fugitives – Fugitives wanted by the U.S. Secret Service. Anyone with information regarding these people should contact the Secret Service at 1-877-242-3375.

United States Marshal’s 15 Most Wanted Federal Fugitives – The United States Marshal Service established the 15 Most Wanted Fugitive Program to help prioritize the investigation and apprehension of high-profile offenders who are considered to be some of the country’s most dangerous fugitives. Visit the website for more information on major cases, special task forces, and internal investigations. Also, if you have a tip, please send an email to

Agencies Working Together

Most of these organizations work together to share information on cases, leads, and other details. The collective power and scope of these agencies make the apprehension of dangerous men and women more possible. The government agencies and bureaus also collaborate with state and local law enforcement and local police officers to keep an eye out in their local neighborhoods. In some situations, private investigators and bounty hunters help search for people who are on the run.

What Do Private Investigators Need to Know?

Private investigators sometimes become involved with apprehending the most wanted fugitive as a result of being hired by one of the families involved in the matter. Some private investigators either specialize or provide the service of bounty hunting, which involves apprehending a fugitive for a fee. Check out the hit TV show Dog the Bounty Hunter for a view into the world of fugitive recovery.

If you have any questions about the various lists of most wanted criminals, please post a comment below. If you’re aware of other organizations that maintain most wanted lists, please post a comment below. We’ll research and include it in our list if warranted.

Michael Kissiah is the owner of Brandy Lane Publishing, LLC, which owns and operates a small portfolio of websites, including Michael created more than 20 years ago after working as a private investigator in the state of Florida. Since that time, he has become an expert at how to find information online and has written over 1000 articles on topics related to the investigation industry. In addition, he is the author of the "Private Investigator Licensing Handbook", available at


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