Drug lord Frank Lucas, who inspired the 2007 film American Gangster, played by Denzel Washington, has died at 88 years old.
Lucas passed away on Thursday, as confirmed by his nephew, Aldwan Lassiter, who revealed to The Rolling Stone that his uncle’s death was of natural causes.
The drug kingpin is best know for being one of the brains behind the “Golden Triangle,” an area in Southeast Asia where he used the coffins of fallen American soldiers from Vietnam to transport drugs into the U.S.
His origins with drugs came from his involvement with gangster Bumpy Johnson, whose mob boss actions inspired films in Hollywood as well, and even appeared in American Gangster, played by Clarence Williams III.
His drug trafficking using coffins served as a main plot point for American Gangster. The film, which was slightly fictionalized for dramatic effect, earned two Academy Award nominations.
While transporting the drugs, Lucas claimed he was making over $1 million per day while opting to live a lavish life, rather than hiding in the shadows.
In the The New York Times article “The Return of Superfly” from 2000, Lucas claimed, “I had so much f—— money — you have no idea.”
He added, “I bought Harlem, I owned Harlem, I ran Harlem.” His illegal drug reign ended in 1975, when his house was raided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Lucas was convicted of both federal and New Jersey state drug charges and was sentenced to 70 years in prison. However, in 1981, his sentence was reduced to time served, and he was released.
Three years later, he had another run-in with the police over a drug deal that violated his parole and was sent back to prison for an addition seven years behind bars. He was released for good in 1991.
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Lucas’s wife, Julianna Farrait-Rodriguez, suffered a similar fate and was convicted for drug-related charges, spending five years behind bars. After they were both released and reconciled following their prison times, Rodriguez was arrested again in 2010 and was sentenced to another five years in prison for attempting to sell cocaine.
Lucas fathered seven children, and his daughter, Francine Lucas-Sinclair, was forced into the witness protection program with her father in 1977.
According to the article “The Real American Gangster”, Lucas was confined to a wheelchair in his final years of life following a car accident.