Frank Lucas

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Frank Lucas: The American Gangster


There is no question that when you hear about the true “American Gangster” someone is talking about Frank Lucas. Before being arrested and sentenced to jail, Frank claimed to be making $1 million a day selling drugs on 116th Street in Harlem, NY. He was known for buying his supply directly from Southeast Asia, also called the “Golden Triangle”. It was said that he would smuggle the drugs using the coffins of American service men. Frank Lucas was a heroin dealer and organized crime boss. These theories and research will prove so.


Frank Lucas was born on September, 1930 in La Grange (Lenoir County), North Carolina, but raised in Greensboro, North Carolina (A&E). He was encouraged to a life of crime after witnessing his 12-year-old cousin murdered at the hands of five members of the Klu Klux Klan, for “reckless eyeballing”. That is, looking at a Caucasian woman.

Lucas then involved himself in small offenses. Being the oldest boy in the family, he had to find a way to put food on the table, so he began to steal food, and later robbing drunks. He continued with his petty crimes until one day he got into an altercation with a former employer, setting his place on fire. To avoid the trouble, his mother advised him to flee to New York. In Harlem, he picked up on the same lifestyles and began pool hustling until getting the attention of Ellsworth Raymond “Bumpy” Johnson.

Bumpy was the drug boss at the time, working under the Italian mafia, and took Lucas under his wing. Frank served as Bumpy’s driver for some time, but how long is not certain. Lucas claims to have been his driver for 15 years, but it is said that Johnson only spent 5 years out of prison before his death in 1968.

After Johnson’s death, Lucas took his place. He wanted to end the monopoly that the Italian mafia held in New York, so that he could be successful. Lucas traveled around and finally to Stilwell, Oklahoma where he went to Jack’s American Star Bar, a rest and relaxation place for black soldiers (Jacobson). Here he met former U.S. Army Sergeant Leslie “Ike” Atkinson. With Ike’s help, Lucas was able to smuggle drugs into the U.S. with a direct link from Asia.

It is said that Lucas used the corpses of dead American soldiers to smuggle the drugs, although both Lucas and Atkinson deny it. Lucas claimed that Ike made copies of the government coffins and fixed them up with false bottoms that were big enough to load from six to eight kilograms. Ike claims that they used furniture and not caskets. Either way, Lucas said he racked in around $1 million a day. Sterling Johnson, federal judge and special narcotics prosecutor in New York at the time, said the operation was, “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” (Jacobson).

Lucas held monopoly on heroin market in Manhattan by having connections with the Sicilian and Mexican mobs. Lucas just wanted to be rich, and in doing so he only trusted close friends and relatives from North Carolina to handle his dope management. He thought that they would be less likely to steal and be tempted by the different immoralities in the city.

“Blue Magic” was the name of his heroin. It was supposedly 100% pure when shipped from Thailand and sold at 98% to 100% purity on the street (Jacobson). Around this time Lucas claimed to be worth around $52 million, much of the money kept in Cayman Island banks, which is located in the western Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba and northwest of Jamaica.

Lucas’ drug racketeering came to an end in January of 1975. His house in New Jersey was raided by a task force consisting of 10 agents of U.S. DEA and 10 NYPD detectives attached to the Organized Crime Control Bureau (Chepseiuk and Gonzalez). He was convicted of both federal and New Jersey State drug violations and in 1976 was...
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