Frank Lucas death: Infamous drug kingpin portrayed in 'American Gangster' dies aged 88

Gangster known for importing heroin directly into US from Southeast Asia in Vietnam War coffins

Clark Mindock
New York
Saturday 01 June 2019 08:08
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Frank Lucas, the drug dealer portrayed by Denzel Washington in Ridley Scott's blockbuster American Gangster, has died aged 88.

Lucas passed away in New Jersey while on the way to the hospital for an unknown health complication, his brother told celebrity news siteTMZ. The death has also been confirmed by Rolling Stone magazine.

The late drug kingpin was immortalised in the 2007 movie based on his life, in which Denzel Washington portrayed his rise to the top echelons of the criminal world.

Lucas’s rise to power was fuelled by heroin use during the 1960s and 1970s, and the kingpin claimed during his life that he was able to streamline the process by cutting out the middle men in the drug business and buying directly from southeast Asia.

His criminal enterprise was started in the Harlem neighbourhood of New York City, and he is infamous for naming his product “Blue Magic”.

But, Lucas’s criminal enterprise was eventually sniffed out by investigators, and Drug Enforcement Administration officials seized more than $584,000 (£462,000) in cash from his New Jersey home during a raid in 1975.

He was then convicted on federal and state drug violations, and sentenced to 70 years in prison.

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He was released after five years in custody, after which he became an informant and helped law enforcement target other top level criminals in the drug business. After that initial release, he then returned to prison for seven years on drug charges, and was released in 1991.

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