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George Remus, King of the Bootleggers

George Remus was known as King of the Bootleggers, an attorney whose most famous client turned out to be himself. Remus was born in Germany in 1876 and came to America when he was 5 years old. He trained as a pharmacist but became a lawyer in 1900 and specialized in criminal defense.

When Prohibition began, his clients were often bootleggers, and Remus observed that the occupation paid a lot more than practicing law.

Moving to Cincinnati, which was near most of the major distilleries that could still legally make alcohol for medicinal purposes, Remus used his pharmacist’s license to buy huge amounts of legal alcohol. Then he had an army of employees “steal” it on the way to his warehouses and turn it into illegal hooch.

Despite five arrests, Remus lived a lavish life, complete with a $125,000 swimming pool at his mansion. He once threw a party where each of the 200 guests received diamond jewelry or cars.

During one of his jail stints, Remus’s wife took up with a federal Prohibition agent. On his release from prison, Remus promptly shot and killed his errant spouse. Acting as his own attorney, he pleaded temporary insanity and was acquitted after the jury deliberated all of 19 minutes.

Remus eventually retired from bootlegging when the business got too violent for him. He died in 1952 at the age of 75. One more thing: The King of the Bootleggers never touched the stuff himself.

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