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People & Places

Best Dead Criminal 

Porn Magnate Reuben Sturman

Last year, former Plain Dealer columnist Jim Neff delivered a book titled The Wrong Man: The Final Verdict on the Dr. Sam Sheppard Murder Case. Well, let's hope it's the last word. One more mention of "the case that inspired The Fugitive!" and we're going to chop off the other arm.

But thanks to Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser, the world has a new Cleveland criminal to ponder. A large portion of Schlosser's latest book -- Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market -- is devoted to Reuben Sturman, an East Side candy-and-tobacco wholesaler who became the Walt Disney of porn. Schlosser recounts how Sturman grew an empire from cheap girlie magazines to internationally financed hardcore films. Word is that, at their peak, Sturman's businesses grossed $1 million a day.

First charged with obscenity in 1964, the cagey Sturman evaded conviction until 1989, when the government finally nailed him for tax evasion. He died at a prison hospital in Kentucky in 1997.

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December 1, 2021

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