He Made Millions Off Porn. And Killed to Keep It That Way

Meet Michael Thevis, the 'Scarface of Sex'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 20, 2017 4:14 PM CDT

(Newser) – In 1970, Michael Thevis fatally shot a former employee turned rival peep machine manufacturer in an Atlanta warehouse filled with dildos and dirty magazines. Decades later, an imprisoned Thevis, self-made millionaire and so-called "Scarface of Sex," would give a piece of advice: "Make as much money as you can, but don't go over the line." Thevis went over the line—and then did it again and again, according the Daily Beast, which got its hands on Thevis' secret memoirs after he died in prison in 2013. Thevis got his start in the pornography business in the 1950s, selling girlie magazines out of a series of newsstands. He would go on to satisfy America's growing desire for pornography through arson, extortion, and murder.

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But before that, Thevis made his fortune in peep machines. The machines would loop 15 seconds of erotic film for a quarter, and Thevis supplied them to adult bookstores across the country. By 1970, he had more than 6,000 peep machines operating in the US and was bringing in annual profits of $25 million—more than the likes of Hershey and Hewlett-Packard. Thevis called the peep machines a "gold mine." Then the murders started. Thevis ruthlessly took out a string of former employees, even reportedly considering turning the broken bones of one car bomb victim into a paperweight. Thevis would eventually be brought down for murder by the FBI, but not before more than 100 arrests, a prison escape, and rumored mob connections. Read the full story here. (Read more Longform stories.)

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