Frank Lucas (drug lord)
Born September 9, 1930 (1930-09-09) (age 80)La Grange, North Carolina
Charge(s) Drug trafficking
Conviction(s) 1976; sentenced to 70 years[1] but released in 1981 upon serving 5 years.[2] Convicted again in 1984[2] released in 1991 after he served a term of seven years.[3]
Occupation Retired Drug Dealer


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Frank Lucas (drug lord)

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Lucas at the Big Apple Con, November 15, 2008.

Frank Lucas (born September 9, 1930) is a former U.S. heroin dealer and organized crime boss who operated in Harlem during the late 1960s and early 1970s. He was particularly known for cutting out middlemen in the drug trade and buying heroin directly from his source in the Golden Triangle. Lucas boasted that he smuggled heroin using the coffins of dead American servicemen, but this claim is denied by his South East Asian associate, Leslie "Ike" Atkinson. His career was dramatized in the 2007 feature film American Gangster in which Lucas is played by Denzel Washington.

Early life

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Lucas was born in La Grange, North Carolina and raised in Greensboro, North Carolina. He claims that the incident that sparked his motivation to embark on a life of crime was witnessing his 12-year-old cousin's murder at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan, for apparently "reckless eyeballing" (looking at a Caucasian woman), in Greensboro, North Carolina. He drifted through a life of petty crime until one particular occasion when after a fight with a former employer he fled to New York on the advice of his mother. In Harlem he indulged in petty crime and pool hustling before he was taken under the wing of gangster Bumpy Johnson. Lucas' connection to Bumpy has since come under some doubt; he claimed to have been Johnson's driver for 15 years, although Johnson spent just 5 years out of prison before his death in 1968. According to Johnson's widow, much of the narrative that Lucas claims as his actually belonged to another young hustler named Zach Walker, who lived with Bumpy and his family and later betrayed him.

Criminal career

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After Johnson's death, Lucas traveled around and came to the realization that to be successful he would have to break the monopoly that the Italian mafia held in New York. Traveling to Bangkok, Thailand, he eventually made his way to Jack's American Star Bar, an R&R hangout for black soldiers. It was here that he met former U.S. Army sergeant Leslie "Ike" Atkinson, a country boy from Goldsboro, North Carolina, who happened to be married to one of Lucas' cousins. Lucas is quoted as saying, "Ike knew everyone over there, every black guy in the Army, from the cooks on up."

When interviewed for a magazine article published in 2000, Lucas denied putting the drugs among the corpses of American soldiers. Instead he flew with a North Carolina carpenter to Bangkok and:

However, Atkinson, nicknamed "Sergeant Smack" by the DEA, has said he shipped drugs in furniture, not caskets. Whatever method he used, Lucas smuggled the drugs into the country with this direct link from Asia. Lucas said that he made US$1 million per day selling drugs on 116th Street though this was later discovered to be an exaggeration. Federal judge Sterling Johnson, who was special narcotics prosecutor in New York at the time of Lucas' crimes, called Lucas' operation "one of the most outrageous international dope-smuggling gangs ever, an innovator who got his own connections outside the U.S. and then sold the narcotics himself in the street." He had connections with the Five Families, holding an enormous monopoly on the heroin market in Manhattan. In an interview, Lucas said, "I wanted to be rich. I wanted to be Donald Trump rich, and so help me God, I made it."

Lucas only trusted relatives and close friends from North Carolina to handle his various heroin operations. Lucas thought they were less likely to steal from him and be tempted by various vices in the big city. He stated his heroin, "Blue Magic", was 98-100% pure when shipped from Thailand. Lucas has been quoted as saying that his worth was "something like $52 million", most of it in Cayman Islands banks. Added to this is "maybe 1,000 keys (kilograms), (2,200 pounds), of dope on hand" with a potential profit of no less than $300,000 per kilo (per 2.2 lb).

This huge profit margin allowed him to buy property all over the country, including office buildings in Detroit, and apartments in Los Angeles and Miami. He also bought a several-thousand-acre ranch in North Carolina on which he ranged 300 head of Black Angus cattle, including a breeding bull worth $125,000.

Lucas rubbed shoulders with the elite of the entertainment, politics, and crime worlds, stating later that he had met Howard Hughes at one of Harlem's best clubs in his day. Though he owned several mink and chinchilla coats and other accessories, Lucas much preferred to dress casually and corporately so as not to attract attention to himself. He fathered seven children, including a daughter, Francine Lucas-Sinclair, and a son, Frank Lucas, Jr. When he was arrested in the mid-1970s, all of Lucas' assets were seized.

Arrests and releases

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In January 1975, Lucas' house in Teaneck, New Jersey was raided by a task force consisting of 10 agents from Group 22 of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and 10 New York Police Department detectives attached to the Organized Crime Control Bureau (OCCB). In his house authorities found $584,683 in cash. He was later convicted of both Federal and New Jersey state drug violations. The following year he was sentenced to 70 years in prison. Once convicted, Lucas provided evidence that led to more than 100 further drug-related convictions. For his safety in 1977, Lucas and his family were placed in the witness protection program. In 1981, after 5 years in custody, his 40-year Federal term and 30-year state term were reduced to time served plus lifetime parole. In 1984 he was caught and convicted of trying to exchange one ounce of heroin and $13,000 for one kilogram of cocaine. He was defended by his former prosecutor Richie Roberts and received a sentence of seven years. He was released from prison in 1991.


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Lucas married Julianna Farrait, a homecoming queen from Puerto Rico (not Miss Puerto Rico as portrayed in the movie, American Gangster). The two often bought each other expensive gifts including a coat for which she paid $125,000 and another $40,000 cash for a matching hat. Julie was also jailed for her role in her husband's criminal enterprise, spending five years behind bars. After she came out of prison they lived separately for some years, and Julie moved back to Puerto Rico. However, they reconciled in 2006, and have been married for over 40 years.

Lucas has a total of seven children, although only a daughter, Francine, with Julie. Francine entered the witness protection program with Lucas in 1977 and has since started up a webpage Yellowbrickroads containing resources for the children of imprisoned parents.

See also

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  • Leroy "Nicky" Barnes
  • Richie Roberts
  • Frank Matthews (drug trafficker)

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