Harlem's drug kingpin Frank Lucas, whose notorious life inspired the 2007 movie "American Gangster", has died at the age of 88.
The once invincible "King of Harlem" was raised in North Carolina and climbed the ranks of crime in Harlem, New York in the 1960’s and '70s, becoming a major drug dealer known for supplying huge amounts of particularly potent heroin.
Lucas said it netted him millions, and authorities seized over $500,000 in cash when they raided his house in Teaneck, New Jersey in 1975. He was convicted and sentenced to decades in prison, but he turned into an informant and was released after about five years. He was quickly arrested again for drug dealing, on a much smaller scale. He served seven more years, getting out again in 1991.
Frank Lucas' story became the basis for “American Gangster”, starring Denzel Washington as Frank Lucas and Russell Crowe as Richard "Richie" Roberts, a composite of various detectives and prosecutors. The real-life Roberts is a former prosecutor who helped convict Lucas but later became his lawyer, friend and even godfather to Lucas' son.
Lucas was a fixture on the film set, giving Denzel advice on such details as how he carried his gun. The movie garnered awards buzz but also brought scrutiny of claims in Lucas' legend, particularly a portrayal of him smuggling drugs in U.S. soldiers' caskets during the Vietnam War.
Even though there was never any evidence or court records to substantiate the so-called "cadaver connection", Lucas continued to tell people that he transported heroin via coffin to the United States — but only once.
As for Frank Lucas' unquestioned role in supplying heroin that killed some users, he told the Associated Press back in 2007 that he regretted it. "I did some terrible things. I'm awfully sorry that I did them. I really am," he said.
Frank Lucas, lived in Newark and had his last brush with the law in 2012: He pleaded guilty to trying to cash a $17,000 federal disability benefit check twice. Lucas came to court in a wheelchair and was sentenced to five years' probation, with prosecutors saying they agreed to it because of his poor health and advanced age. Who would’ve thought a man in his 80’s would still live a life of a gangster?!
Watch an interesting documentary on the life of Frank Lucas below.