Former Harlem drug kingpin Frank Lucas portrayed in the film “American Gangster“, died on Thursday night at the age of 88.
Reportedly Lucas’ nephew, Aldwan Lassiter, confirmed the sad news to Rolling Stone magazine earlier today. Lassiter said that the infamous kingpin died of natural causes.
Frank Lucas was one of the biggest drug dealers in the US in the 70’s getting his start being the right-hand man of Harlem gangster Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson. After Johnson’s death, Lucas would go on to expand Bumpy’s empire bringing kilos of heroin from Southeast Asia to America in the coffins of U.S. soldiers who died in Vietnam. His scheme became so big it cut out the Mafia who were the middlemen at the time and bought the heroin directly from Southeast Asia. At the peak of its operation, Lucas claimed that he was bringing in $1M a day.
Lucas time in the limelight wouldn’t last long before the DEA raided Frank’s home in the 1970s where they discovered $584K of cash. The kingpin was later sentenced to 70 years but ended up reaching a deal to testify on crooked cops and getting his sentence cut. He later upon his release would enter a witness protection program with his family.
His life would spawn three books, in 2010 “Original Gangsta: The Real Life Story of One of America’s Most Notorious Drug Lords“, Original Gangster: The Rise and Fall of the Original Billionaire Heroin Dealer and 2012’s American Gangster the Rise and Fall of the Billionaire Heroin Dealer. Aside from literature his story also sparked the interest of New York magazine and later Universal Pictures who purchased the rights to the magazine’s story to produce the 2007 film, American Gangster starring Denzel Washington as Frank Lucas.
The Films incredible story although rooted in crime would go on to inspire many like Jay-Z to create an album of the same name. In an interview in 2007, Jay explained Lucas’ impact on the game.
“Frank Lucas, it’s something about when African-Americans reach somewhere, no matter what they’re doing if they reach somewhere that no one has ever been before, you champion ’em like ‘Go! Go!” Jay says.
Frank Lucas is survived by his eight children.