Drug Lord Frank Lucas, Portrayed by Denzel Washington in 'American Gangster,' Dies at 88

Harlem drug lord Frank Lucas whose notorious crime life was featured on 2007's "American Gangster" has died. The 88-year-old was famous for smuggling drugs using coffins of dead US servicemen.

Famous drug kingpin Frank Lucas who Denzel Washington portrayed in the 2007 film, “American Gangster” has passed away.

The 88-year-old died in New Jersey on May 30 while on the way to the hospital, according to TMZ. His nephew, Aldwan Lassiter confirmed to Rolling Stone that he died of natural causes.

He bragged about owning Harlem, making $1 million a day at his peak.

HARLEM KINGPIN

North Carolina-born Lucas was famous for building one of the biggest heroine empires in America in the 60s and 70s after taking over Harlem mob boss Bumpy Johnson who died in 1968. 

He bragged about owning Harlem, making $1 million a day at his peak. He did this by successfully cutting out middlemen in his drug business. He smuggled drugs directly from Southeast Asia using coffins of dead US servicemen. This scheme became the main plot of the Academy Award-nominated film, "American Gangster" which was loosely based on his life story and starred Washington.

In 1981, he managed to reduce his prison sentence to time served when he agreed to rat out fellow drug lords in exchange to entering the witness protection program with his family.

THE COLLAPSE OF HIS EMPIRE

Lucas’ reign ended in 1975 when the US Drug Enforcement Administration raided his home and seized over $500,000 in cash. He was convicted and sentenced to 70 years in prison and all his assets, including properties across the country, were seized. In 1981, he managed to reduce his prison sentence to time served when he agreed to rat out fellow drug lords in exchange to entering the witness protection program with his family.

However, three years into his freedom, Lucas violated his parole by dealing drugs again. He returned to prison and remained there for seven years until 1991 when he was released for good. 

Lucas was reportedly on a wheelchair during the remaining years of his life after figuring in a car accident.

HIS NOTORIOUS WIFE

Lucas is survived by seven children and a wife who served prison time too. Julianna Farrait-Rodriguez spent five years in jail for drug-related charges. Upon her release, she was imprisoned again in 2010 for attempting to sell cocaine in Puerto Rico. She stayed there for another five years.

"I am sitting here talking to you right now. Walking and talking – when I could have, should have, been dead and buried a hundred times."

HIS LATER YEARS

Lucas was reportedly on a wheelchair during the remaining years of his life after figuring in a car accident. In 2011, he released his memoir, “Original Gangster: The Real Life Story of One of America’s Most Notorious Drug Lords.”

The man believed people loved him despite his notoriety. During a 2000 interview with New York magazine, he bragged,

“Look, all you got to know is that I am sitting here talking to you right now. Walking and talking – when I could have, should have, been dead and buried a hundred times,” Lucas said. “And you know why that is? Because: People like me. People like the [expletive] out of me.”