The Biggest Cases Ever Investigated by the FBI

Source: Stephen J. Dubner / Contributor / Getty Images

During its long history, the FBI has solved some of the most famous crimes in U.S. history. From terrorist bombings of airplanes and Nazi spy rings to massive white collar crimes, the FBI nearly always gets their man (or men) – and occasionally their woman (or women) – after years of painstaking investigations.  

To compile a list of 40 of some of the biggest cases the FBI has ever worked on, 24/7 Tempo drew information from the FBI website. Using editorial discretion, we chose high-profile crimes that captivated the public’s interest and generated significant media coverage and required a significant amount of effort to solve (or remain unsolved). Our choices fall into a number of categories, including murder, kidnapping, and fraud. Some of the cases on the list have set records in FBI history, while others have resulted in new laws being passed.  

The FBI doesn’t catch every criminal. The killer of a young starlet dubbed the Black Dahlia in 1947 in Los Angeles has yet to be identified. The hijacker D.B. Cooper jumped from an airplane with a bundle of cash and disappeared. (These are but two of the 22 famous unsolved crimes in America.)

Other crimes reverberate beyond their criminality. The deadly bombing of a church in Alabama and the killing of three young Freedom Rider workers galvanized the civil rights movement of the mid-1960s, and led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act. The 1916 Black Tom bombing in Jersey City forced the nation to change its espionage laws after it was found German agents were behind the act.

The public may not recall the kidnapping of one-month-old Peter Weinberger on Long Island in 1956, but because of the crime, the FBI can now begin investigating abductions after only 24 hours, instead of the seven-day waiting period previously prescribed by law. (These are the most notorious kidnappings in American history.)

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