The present study aims at understanding how individuals engage in organized crime activities. Processes responsible for organized crime involvement are still poorly understood, particularly for those who become engaged only later in life. In-depth interviews with 16 inmates, all convicted of participation in organized crime and incarcerated in Dutch prisons, illuminate how individuals at different life stages become involved in crime in general, and in organized crime activities in particular. Most participants we interviewed turn out to have experienced an adult onset in crime. Their involvement mechanisms are analysed and compared with mechanisms applicable to offenders with an early start in crime. It was found that offenders with an early start in crime have a wealth of opportunities and criminal contacts, whereas individuals who become involved in crime later in life are exposed to crime opportunities in conventional settings. © The Author(s) 2012.