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Frank Lucas (drug dealer)

Frank Lucas
Lucas at the Big Apple Comic Con on November 15, 2008
Born (1930-09-09) September 9, 1930
La Grange, North Carolina
Occupation Retired drug trafficker/smuggler
Criminal charge 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]

Frank Lucas (born September 9, 1930)[4] is an American former heroin dealer, 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,[5][6] but this claim is denied by his South East Asian associate, Leslie "Ike" Atkinson.[7] Rather than hide the drugs in the coffins, they were hidden in the pallets underneath as depicted in the 2007 feature film American Gangster in which he was played by Denzel Washington, although the film fictionalized elements of Lucas' life for dramatic effect.


  • Early life 1
  • Criminal career 2
  • Arrests and releases 3
  • Depictions in media 4
    • American Gangster (2007) 4.1
    • Television 4.2
  • Family 5
  • Health 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early life

Lucas was born in La Grange, North Carolina, and raised in Greensboro, North Carolina.[8] He was the son of Mahalee (née Jones 1909-2003) and Fred Lucas.[9][10] 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. 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.[5] Lucas' connection to Johnson has since come under some doubt; he claimed to have been Johnson's driver for 15 years, although Johnson spent just five 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 Johnson and his family and later betrayed him.[11]

Criminal career

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.[5] 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."[5]

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:

We did it, all right...ha, ha, ha... Who the hell is gonna look in a dead soldier's coffin? Ha ha ha. . . .We had him make up 28 copies of the government coffins . . . except we fixed them up with false bottoms, big enough to load up with six, maybe eight kilos . . . It had to be snug. You couldn't have shit sliding around. Ike was very smart, because he made sure we used heavy guys' coffins. He didn't put them in no skinny guy's . . ."
— Frank Lucas[5]
Lucas' January 1975 federal mug shot.

However, Atkinson, nicknamed "Sergeant Smack" by the Drug Enforcement Administration,[12] has said he shipped drugs in furniture, not caskets.[7] 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." 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."[5]

Lucas only trusted relatives and close friends from North Carolina to handle his various heroin operations.[5] 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.[13] 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.[5]

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.[5] 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.[14] When he was arrested in the mid-1970s, all of Lucas' assets were seized.[14]

The properties in Chicago, Detroit, Miami, North Carolina, Puerto Rico — they took everything. My lawyer told me they couldn't take the money in the offshore accounts, and I had all my money stored in the Cayman Islands. But that's BS; they can take it. Take my word for it. If you got something, hide it, 'cause they can go to any bank and take it.
— Frank Lucas [14]

Arrests and releases

In January 1975, Lucas' house in

  • Frank Lucas Foundation
  • Dateline NBC Producer describes sitting down for breakfast with Frank Lucas
  • Susannah Cahalan, "Ganging up on movie's lies", New York Post, November 4, 2007
  • movie siteAmerican Gangster

External links

  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^ a b c d e f
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i "The Return of Superfly" New York Magazine, 14 August 2000.
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ "Frank Lucas, Between Issues" Metro Magazine, 8 November 2007.
  9. ^ accessed 8/11/14
  10. ^ accessed 8/11/14
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b Chepesiuk, Ron (January 17, 2008). "New Criminologist Special - Frank Lucas, 'American Gangster,' and the Truth Behind the Asian Connection".
  13. ^
  14. ^ a b c
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^ a b Cruz, Alicia (May 24, 2010). "Julianna Farrait, wife of ‘American Gangster” Frank Lucas, arrested for trying to sell cocaine".
  17. ^ a b Jailal, Sarada (February 25, 2008). "The daughter of American Gangster Frank Lucas speaks at Ambler". The Temple News.
  18. ^ a b
  19. ^
  20. ^ a b
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^


See also

Lucas is confined to a wheelchair due to a car accident that broke his legs.[3]


Lucas fathered seven children, including a daughter, Francine Lucas-Sinclair, and a son, Frank Lucas, Jr.[3][24] Lucas-Sinclair entered the witness protection program with Lucas in 1977 and has since started a webpage, Yellow Brick Road, containing resources for the children of imprisoned parents.[16][17]

Farrait was also jailed for her role in her husband's criminal enterprise, and spent five years behind bars. After she came out of prison they lived separately for some years, and Farrait moved back to Puerto Rico. However, they reconciled in 2006 and have been married for more than 40 years.[3]

Lucas married Julianna Farrait, a homecoming queen from Puerto Rico. The two often bought each other expensive gifts, including a coat for which she paid $125,000 and a matching hat for which she paid $40,000 cash.


  • The Gangland episode "American Gangster" (November 1, 2007) features Frank Lucas, Nicky Barnes, and The Council drug syndicate.


Many of Lucas' other claims, as presented in the film, have also been called into question, such as his being the right-hand man of Bumpy Johnson, rising above the power of the Mafia and Nicky Barnes, and being the mastermind behind the Golden Triangle heroin connection of the 1970s. Ron Chepesiuk, a Lucas biographer, deemed the story a myth. Associated Press entertainment writer Frank Coyle noted, "[T]his mess happened partially because journalists have been relying on secondary sources removed from the actual events."[12]

Judge [18]

Lucas' life was dramatized in the Universal Pictures crime film American Gangster (2007), in which he was portrayed by Denzel Washington.[18] In an interview with MSNBC, Lucas expressed his excitement about the film and amazement at Washington's portrayal,[19] though he admitted only a small portion of the film was true,[20] much of it fabricated for narrative effect.[3] In addition, Richie Roberts criticized the film for portraying him in a custody battle while in real life Roberts never had a child; he also criticized the portrayal of Lucas, describing it as "almost noble".[20]

American Gangster (2007)

Depictions in media

[3] and received a sentence of seven years. He was released from prison in 1991.Richie Roberts He was defended by his former prosecutor [2] In 1984, he was caught and convicted of trying to exchange one ounce of heroin and $13,000 for one kilogram of cocaine.[1] 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.[17][16].witness protection program 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 [1] He was later convicted of both federal and New Jersey state drug violations. The following year he was sentenced to 70 years in prison.[15] In his house authorities found $584,683 in cash.[15]

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