‘American Gangster’ Drug Kingpin Frank Lucas Dies at 88: Report

‘American Gangster’ Drug Kingpin Frank Lucas Dies at 88: Report
File image of Frank Lucas, depicted in "American Gangster"[Luigi Nova/CC BY 3.0 (ept.ms/2FZU1oT)]

Infamous drug kingpin Frank Lucas, who was made infamous in Ridley Scott’s 2007 film “American Gangster,” died Thursday night. He was 88.

His nephew Aldwan Lassiter confirmed the news to Rolling Stone and said his uncle died of natural causes.

Lucas became infamous in the drug world after his mentor Harlem mob boss Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson died in 1968, according to the report. Lucas took over and began importing pure heroin from Southeast Asia in the coffins of U.S. soldiers killed in Vietnam.

Through the years, he became Harlem’s drug kingpin, credited as the planner behind the “Golden Triangle” gambit of the 1970s, according to Rolling Stone.

“I probably did more damage than I did good. I probably did, and that’s a fact,” Lucas told The Star-Ledger in 2013. “At that time, I wasn’t aware of what I was doing. All I knew is, I was making big dollars.”

“A bad business was a good business. It was a horrible business, put it that way. I was in the heroin business … the worst you can get,” he added.  “You can’t get no lower than that, and I was in it. Up to my head.”

“I bought Harlem, I owned Harlem, I ran Harlem,” Lucas said, according to the Rolling Stone. His operation allowed him to cut out the middle man, the mafia, as he was able to smuggle the drug directly into the country through his “Golden Triangle” system.

However, the law caught up to him.

Actor Russell Crowe appears on set during the filming of Universal Pictures "American Gangster"
Actor Russell Crowe appears on set during the filming of Universal Pictures “American Gangster” in New York, on Aug. 4, 2006. (Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)

Richard Roberts oversaw the Essex County Prosecutor’s Bureau of Narcotics in the 1970s, and helped in his arrest according to The Star-Ledger, New Jersey On-Line reported. Lucas ended up switching sides and became an informant for Roberts, helping the government arrest several drug dealers.

The events of his life inspired the film “American Gangster,” with Denzel Washington playing Lucas and Russel Crowe portraying Roberts.

The success of the movie led to Lucas being in the spotlight again. He made several public appearances denouncing his former crime boss life, which he claimed used to earn him $1 million per day.

Eventually, Roberts and Lucas formed a friendship. When Roberts learned about his friend’s death, he expressed shock.

“You expected him to live forever,” Roberts told The Star-Ledger over the phone.

“No one is all good. No one is all bad,” he added. “You try to see the good and you try to forget the bad.”

While Roberts was well-aware his friend was “one of America’s most notorious drug lords,” he also saw a different side to the former mob boss, recalling that Lucas once asked him to be a godfather to his youngest son Ray, according to The Star-Ledger.

“There are a lot of people that love him and a lot of people that hate him,” Roberts said, according to New Jersey On-Line. “He’ll always have the stigma of heroin distribution. Let’s face it, a lot of people died because of what he sold.”

However, he added that Lucas “also did good by helping put a lot of people behind bars.”

“It was a hell of a run,” he recalled.

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