a person who leads others, especially in opposition to authority, law, etc.: a ringleader of revolutionary activities.

1495–1505; ring1 + leader

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World English Dictionary
ringleader (ˈrɪŋˌliːdə)
a person who leads others in any kind of unlawful or mischievous activity

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

c.1500, from M.E. phrase to lead the ring (mid-14c.), probably from a medieval metaphor from dancing.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
Sixty-four people were sentenced in the scheme, and the ringleader was sent to
The dean of the college from which the prank was launched sent the ringleader a
  case of champagne.
All signs point to him as the ringleader among the five.
He seems to have been the center of gravity, the dour and meticulous ringleader.
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