Controlling persons are the ultimate decision-makers of listed companies. Their illegalities have impacts on investors’ wealth, firm development, and capital market’s quality. Against this backdrop, we provide a quantitative analysis of the short-term stock price reaction to the criminal detention announcements of controlling persons throughout 2007–2019. We applied the Elman neural network (ENN) model into the classical event study methodology and demonstrated that the combination of them helps to improve the estimation accuracy of the stock price reaction. The results show that the stock price has a significant negative reaction to the criminal detention announcements of listed companies’ controlling persons on the announcement day, and the average reaction level is -6.67%. Additionally, the crisis communication measures of the firms could diminish the negative impact of such mandatory disclosure information on their stock price, but the effect is limited. Finally, the 31 companies in our sample cause a total loss of RMB 21.1 billion in market capitalization on the announcement day alone. The above results indicate that the impact of listed companies’ controlling persons on the capital market is tremendous, although the number of this group is small. Our work enriches the listed companies’ illegalities research and provides a reference for investors’ investment choices and follow-up decision making of regulatory authorities. It also provides some guidance for most of the researchers to further explore the application of data mining techniques in nonlinear problems.