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Frank Lucas
Frank Lucas.jpg
Notorious Harlem, NY area heroin trafficker and gangster Frank Lucas in 2007.
General Information:
Occupation: Retired drug trafficker/smuggler
Date of birth: (1930-09-09)September 9, 1930
Born in: La Grange, North Carolina, U.S.
Died: May 30, 2019(2019-05-30) (aged 88)
Died in: Cedar Grove, New Jersey, U.S.
Criminal record (If any):
Charges: Drug Trafficking (Blue Magic Heroin)
Convicted of: 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]
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Frank Lucas (born September 9, 1930-died May 30, 2019) [4] is a former 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. Frank Lucas is popularly known for smuggling heroin using the coffins of dead American servicemen, a claim his South Asian associate, Leslie "Ike" Atkinson denies. His career was dramatized in the 2007 feature film American Gangster.

Early life/criminal career

Born in La Grange, North Carolina, Frank was raised in Greensboro, North Carolina. Lucas claims that the incident that sparked his motivation into the life of crime was witnessing his 12-year-old cousin's murder at the hands of the KKK, for apparently "reckless eyeballing" (looking at a Caucasian woman), in Greensboro, North Carolina. e drifted through a life of petty crime until one particular occasion when, after a fight with a former employer, whose daughter he had been having an affair with. In the ensuing fight, Lucas hit the father on the head with a pipe, knocking him out cold. He then stole $400 from the company till and set the establishment on fire, as he was forced to flee to New York City on the behest of his mother, who feared that he would be caught, arrested and jailed for much of his life (if not lynched).[5] Upon arriving in Harlem in 1949, he quickly began indulging in petty crime and pool hustling before he was taken under the wing of gangster Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson. His connection to Bumpy has come under some doubt, however. Lucas claimed to have been Johnson's driver for 15 years, although Johnson spent just 5 years out of prison before his death in 1968. And according to Johnson's widow, much of the narrative that Lucas claims actually belonged to another young hustler named Zach Walker, who lived with Bumpy and his family and later betrayed him.his coat and hat got him caught


Ascension in organized crime

After Bumpy 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 Stilwell, Oklahoma, 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."

Lucas denies putting the drugs among the corpses of American soldiers. Instead he flew in a North Carolina carpenter to Bangkok and: “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..." [6] [7]

Southeast Asia drug connect

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. 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 Sicilian and Mexican mobs, 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."

"Blue Magic" heroin & "The Country Boys"

Lucas only trusted relatives (which included two of his brothers) and close friends from North Carolina to handle his various heroin operations. Lucas thought this circle of contacts, which came to be known as "The Country Boys", were trusted by Frank, because he felt that they were less likely to steal from him and be tempted by various vices in the big city. His heroin, "Blue Magic" was 100% pure when shipped from Thailand and sold at 98% to 100% purity on the street. 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).

Heroin profits

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 cows, including a breeding bull worth $125,000. Lucas rubbed shoulders with the elite in entertainment, politics, and crime, meeting Howard Hughes at one of Harlem's best clubs in his day Though he owned several mink and chinchilla coats and other accessories, Frank Lucas much preferred to dress very casually and corporately as to not 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.

“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.”

Arrests and releases

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).[8][9] 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.[10] 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 United States Federal Witness Protection Program.[11] [12] 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.[13] In 1984, he was caught and convicted of trying to exchange one ounce of heroin and $13,000 for one kilogram of cocaine.[14] He was defended by his former prosecutor Richie Roberts and received a sentence of seven years. He was released from prison in 1991.

Personal life

Lucas married Julianna Farrait-Rodriguez (née 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.

Farrait was also jailed for her role in her husband's criminal enterprise, and spent five years in prison. After she was released, the couple lived separately for some years, and Farrait moved back to Puerto Rico. However, they reconciled in 2006 and were married for more than 40 years.[3]

Farrait was arrested again in May 2010, and sentenced to five years in prison for attempting to sell two kilograms of cocaine to a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) informant at a hotel in Puerto Rico.Template:Cn

Lucas fathered seven children, including a daughter, Francine Lucas-Sinclair, and a son, Frank Lucas, Jr.[3][15] Lucas-Sinclair entered the witness protection program with Lucas in 1977 and has since started a website, Yellow Brick Road, containing resources for the children of imprisoned parents.[16] [17]

Final years/Death

In his last years, Lucas was confined to a wheelchair due to a car accident which broke his legs.[3]

Lucas died at the age of 88 on May 30, 2019, in [Cedar Grove, New Jersey.[18][19]


  1. "U.S. Jury Convicts Heroin Informant", The New York Times, August 25, 1984. Retrieved on 2008-04-09. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Drug Dealer Gets New Prison Term", The New York Times, September 11, 1984. Retrieved on 2008-04-09. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Janelle Oswald (2007-12-09). The Real American Gangster. voice-online. Retrieved on 2008-03-08. “She spent five years in prison for aiding her husband's narcotic smuggling trade. Having to get used to the public life again after living like a 'ghost' since her release, the making of her partner's life on the big screen has brought back many memories, some good and some bad.”
  4. Frank Lucas Biography, The Bio channel, accessed 2012-02-16.
  5. Frank Lucas (1930-2019). “By the 1960s, gangster and drug kingpin Frank Lucas had constructed an international drug ring that spanned from New York to South East Asia.”
  6. "The Return of Superfly" New York Magazine, 14 August 2000.
  7. American Gangster True Story - The real Frank Lucas, Richie Roberts for ,accessed 2012-02-16.
  8. The Raid in Teaneck, Crime magazine, by Ron Chepesiuk and Anthony Gonzalez, accessed 2012-2-16.
  9. Teaneck raid, Crime Magazine article, first accessed February 20, 2008.
  10. NY Times article, August 25, 1984.
  11. "Julianna Farrait, wife of ”American Gangster” Frank Lucas, arrested for trying to sell cocaine", article by Alicia Cruz, May 24, 2010.]
  12. "The daughter of American Gangster Frank Lucas speaks at Ambler" by Sarada Jailal, The Temple News, February 25, 2008
  13. NY Times article, August 25, 1984.
  14. NY Times article, September 11, 1984.
  15. Davis, Bradley. "BREAKFAST WITH THE REAL 'AMERICAN GANGSTER'", Inside Dateline, MSNBC, October 26, 2007. 
  16. Cruz, Alicia. ""Julianna Farrait, wife of ‘American Gangster" Frank Lucas, arrested for trying to sell cocaine"",, May 24, 2010. Retrieved on August 16, 2020. 
  17. Jailal, Sarada. ""The daughter of American Gangster Frank Lucas speaks at Ambler"", February 25, 2008. Retrieved on August 16, 2020. 
  18. Daniel Kreps: Frank Lucas, ‘American Gangster’ Drug Kingpin, Dead at 88. Rolling Stone, 2019-05-31
  19. Jim Cooper. "Frank Lucas Dies at 88; Drug Kingpin Depicted in ‘American Gangster’ (Obituary)",, Associated Press (AP), May 31, 2019. Retrieved on August 16, 2020. 

External links