Frank Lucas Net Worth
Frank Lucas had an estimated net worth of $500 thousand at his death. By the 1960s, gangster and drug kingpin Frank Lucas had constructed an international drug ring that spanned from New York to South East Asia. He earned most of his income from criminal activities, not least drug trafficking.
Frank Lucas was born on September 9, 1930, in La Grange, North Carolina, and moved to Harlem in 1946, where he became involved in street crime. He had built an international drug empire spanning from New York to South East Asia by the 1960s. His method of operation was murder, extortion, and bribery. When Lucas was apprehended in 1975, he had millions in cash and property in several cities.
To calculate the net worth of Frank Lucas, subtract all his liabilities from his total assets. Investments, savings, cash deposits, and any equity he has in a house, car, or other similar asset are included in the total assets. All debts, such as personal loans and mortgages, are included in total liabilities.
Here’s the breakdown of his net worth:
|Net Worth:||$500 Thousand|
|Monthly Salary:||$100 Thousand|
|Annual Income:||$2 Million|
|Source of Wealth:||Heroin dealer, Crime boss|
Frank Lucas was born on September 9, 1930, in La Grange, North Carolina, and grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina. As with many larger-than-life figures, Frank Lucas’ biography is shrouded in fact, mystery, and myth, much of which has been perpetuated by Lucas himself.
During the Great Depression, Lucas grew up in rural North Carolina. Many Americans in the rural South were poor at the time, but African Americans were the most impoverished. Lucas spent a lot of his childhood looking after his younger siblings and getting into mischief. He claims that witnessing his cousin’s murder was the catalyst for his criminal career.
He was only six years old when five Ku Klux Klan members dressed in sheets and hoods showed up at the shack where he was living one night. The men murdered Lucas’ 13-year-old cousin on the spot, claiming he had flirted with a white woman. However, as with much of the folklore surrounding Frank Lucas, investigators have never found evidence to back up his claim.
Lucas, as the oldest son in the family, was responsible for ensuring the family’s survival. With the Great Depression still raging, it was difficult for him to find and keep a job, so he resorted to stealing food. He later found some success mugging inebriated customers outside the local tavern as he grew older and stronger.
He got a job as a truck driver for a pipe company in his late teens until he was caught sleeping with the boss’s daughter. During the fight that ensued, Lucas hit the father on the head with a pipe, knocking him out cold. He then stole $400 from the company till and set fire to the place. His mother pleaded with him to flee to New York, fearing he would be arrested and imprisoned for the rest of his life.
Move to New York
In the summer of 1946, Lucas moved to Harlem. People advised him to be smart and get a good job as an elevator operator or hotel doorman. Lucas, on the other hand, witnessed how real money was made on the streets through illegal gambling and drugs. With each subsequent crime, he became more daring and ruthless.
He began by robbing a local bar at gunpoint. Then he robbed a jewelry store of a tray of diamonds, breaking a guard’s jaw with a slug from his brass knuckles. He boldly broke into a high-stakes crap game at a local club and robbed all the players.
Then, on a crowded sidewalk in the summer of 1966, Lucas shot a local thug who had reneged on a dope deal. Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson, a long-time Harlem gangster who oversaw gambling and extortion operations, noticed his efforts.
Frank Lucas learned a lot from Johnson, but he took his lessons to a whole new level, creating one of the most profitable crime syndicates of the twentieth century. Johnson died in 1968, leaving Harlem under his control. Lucas took advantage of the opportunity to seize as much territory as possible.
International Drug Trafficking
Frank Lucas desired to be wealthy — what he referred to as “Donald Trump wealthy.” He not only believed he could make it big in the drug world, but he also knew how. He began with the planning. He referred to it as “backtracking.”
He’d lock himself away in a hotel room for a month or two at a time, away from all distractions. He’d reflect on his past experiences and what he’d learned. Then he’d look forward to the future, including every possible detail and the detail of the details, mentally walking through every step of the operation.
Frank Lucas realized that in order to take over Johnson’s operation, he needed to break the Italian Mafia’s monopoly. His plan was to avoid the Mafia’s heroin trade in Harlem and instead go straight to the source of the drug. The Vietnam War had been raging for several years by 1968. It was widely known that US service members had been exposed to a variety of illegal drugs, including heroin.
When they returned to the United States with their addictions, they looked for new sources. Dope was common in most major American cities by the late 1960s and early 1970s, with “brand names” like “Mean Machine,” “Can’t Get Enough of that Funky Stuff,” and “Harlem Hijack.” Lucas knew if he could get the drugs directly from the source, he could meet the demand and make a tidy profit. He made the decision to travel to Southeast Asia.
Partnering With Leslie “Ike” Atkinson
Frank Lucas possessed a “expectation of invincibility.” He had no qualms about boarding a plane by himself and flying halfway around the world to Thailand. He didn’t know much about the country and didn’t speak the language. Despite this, he was involved in one of the most dangerous occupations imaginable: international drug trafficking.
On his arrival in Bangkok in 1968, Lucas checked into the Dusit Thani Hotel. He met Leslie “Ike” Atkinson at Jack’s American Bar, a hangout for African American soldiers for rest and relaxation. Atkinson ran the bar and had many contacts with US Army soldiers in Southeast Asia, frequently supplying them with drugs on the spot. Atkinson was also from Greensboro, North Carolina, and had married a cousin of Lucas’. As a result, Lucas instituted a policy of only hiring family members or close friends.
Atkinson agreed to supply Lucas with heroin, but Lucas insisted on seeing the operations firsthand. The two men spent nearly two weeks traveling through Thailand’s jungles until they found Atkinson’s main connection and business partner, a Chinese-Thai gentleman named Luetchi Rubiwat.
Rubiwat, also known as “007,” commanded several hundred acres of poppy fields in the Golden Triangle, a dense jungle region bordering Thailand, Burma, and Laos. The poppies were processed into heroin in caves bored into the mountains near the poppy fields. On his first trip, Lucas purchased 132 kilos of high-quality heroin for $4,200 per unit. He would have paid $50,000 for a kilo from the Mafia in Harlem.
To establish the international distribution system, Lucas and Atkinson formed a “army within the Army” of draftees and enlisted men. Key military personnel, including high-ranking officers from both the United States and South Vietnam, had to be “bought” into the system. Lucas recruited his team through a combination of charm and expensive bribes. Lucas would personally oversee the operations in Southeast Asia, as he did with nearly every aspect of his business, sometimes disguising himself as an Army officer.
The plan was to fly heroin shipments to military bases on the East Coast in military planes. The packages were then delivered to accomplices who unpacked the heroin and prepared it for sale. According to hyperbole, much of the dope was stuffed into the coffins of deceased servicemen, or even stuffed into the cadavers.
Lucas testified that he hired a carpenter from North Carolina and flew him to Bangkok to construct over two dozen government-issued coffins with false bottoms large enough to hold 6 to 8 kilos of heroin. According to reports, Atkinson only packed the smuggled heroin in furniture.
Frank Lucas’ Brothers: the ‘Country Boys’
Frank Lucas combined toughness and intelligence in establishing his organization in the United States, taking great care to ensure that every detail was covered. He only hired trusted relatives and close friends from North Carolina, such as Leslie Atkinson.
He believed they were less likely to steal from him and be enticed by the city’s vices. He enlisted the help of his five younger brothers and relocated them to New York. They were known as the “Country Boys” in the city, and they controlled the territory on 116th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues in Harlem.
Lucas approached marketing his product in the same way that any entrepreneur would, by providing value at the right price. He was able to “cut” the drug at a higher level—usually between 10 and 12 percent—because he was getting nearly pure heroin directly from the source, whereas most street heroin was only about five to six percent.
Lucas enlisted the help of several young women to mix the imported heroin with mannite and quinine. These women wore nothing but plastic gloves to prevent theft. To protect his investment, Lucas used brutal violence against anyone who stood in his way, instilling fear in opponents while inspiring respect in friends and business partners.
Living the High Life
Stashing Millions in the Cayman Islands
The money poured in just as Lucas had predicted. He frequently boasted about earning a million dollars per day. Because there wasn’t always enough room to hide the money, he’d launder it by personally driving large bags of bills to a bank in the Bronx, where the bankers would count it and exchange it for legitimate bills.
Later, bank executives pleaded guilty to 200 misdemeanor violations of the Bank Secrecy Act. At the peak of his career, he had over $52 million in Cayman Island banks and 1,000 kilograms of heroin worth $300,000 per kilo on hand. Lucas purchased legitimate businesses, such as a string of dry cleaners and gas stations, in order to “hide” the exchanged money.
He also owned office buildings in Detroit, apartments in Los Angeles, Miami, and Puerto Rico, and a 3,000-acre ranch in North Carolina called “Paradise Valley,” where he kept 300 Black Angus cattle and prize breeding bulls.
Friend of Celebrities
Lucas was also seen on the New York celebrity circuit. He was frequently seen in Manhattan’s hottest nightclubs, mixing with famous athletes like Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali, as well as entertainers like James Brown, Berry Gordy, and Diana Ross. Lucas was set to star in The Ripoff, a Hollywood gangster film set in New York City’s streets.
He contributed nearly $100,000 to the film and loaned several of his exotic automobiles to the production. However, the film was never completed. He was a free spender, once purchasing a pair of $140,000 Van Cleef bracelets for himself and his wife, Julie. She lavished him with a $50,000 chinchilla coat and a $10,000 hat. However, Lucas preferred to dress casually most of the time in order to avoid drawing attention to himself.
Who Was Frank Lucas’ Mentor?
Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson, a Harlem gangster, was Lucas’ mentor. There is some debate about how close Lucas was to Johnson. Johnson, according to Lucas, took him under his wing and eventually became Bumpy’s “right-hand man.” Others close to Johnson, including his widow, Mayme, testify that Johnson distrusted Lucas and never elevated him above the status of a slacker.
Frank Lucas would not have been able to obtain and transport heroin from Southeast Asia without the assistance of corrupt military personnel, and he would not have been able to sell it on the streets of Harlem without the assistance of dishonest cops.
The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) of the New York Police Department was hopelessly corrupt during the 1960s and 1970s. It had city-wide jurisdiction and nearly limitless power. The unit had developed a cowboy mentality, breaking into and searching suspected drug dealers without a warrant; conducting illegal phone taps; bribing informants; and controlling addicted informants with confiscated heroin. Several of the officers were “on the take” with local drug dealers in order to turn a blind eye.
At one point, the SIU’s head, Bob Leuci, apprehended Frank Lucas with several kilograms of heroin and cocaine in the trunk of his car. According to Lucas, he was taken to the police station and forced to bargain his release for $30,000 and two “keys” to heroin. This was a common practice that involved many New York police officers in the crimes they were supposed to stop.
Prosecutor Richard ‘Richie’ Roberts
The police corruption became national news over time, and the Justice Department wanted it to stop. In 1971, officials in Essex County, New Jersey, established the Special Narcotics Task Force (SNTF), which was led by then-assistant prosecutor Richard “Richie” Roberts.
Roberts, a former U.S. Marine and recent Seaton Hall University law school graduate, had been a detective in Essex County since 1963. He was a street-smart cop who did whatever was necessary to get the job done. Roberts, unlike some of his colleagues in the New York Police Department, was uncorruptible.
Frank Lucas’ House Raid
After a lengthy investigation by the SNTF, a DEA strike force conducted a surprise raid on Frank Lucas’ home in Teaneck, New Jersey, on January 28, 1975. Julie, Lucas’ wife, threw several suitcases stuffed with cash out the window in a panic.
In total, $584,000 was recovered, dubbed “street money” by Lucas. Keys to several Cayman Island safe-deposit boxes, property deeds, and a ticket to a United Nations ball, courtesy of Honduras’ ambassador, were also discovered. Ten people were arrested in a short period of time, but none of them were Frank Lucas. There was no direct evidence linking Lucas to the drug operation as of yet.
Then there was a break. Lucas’ nephew, one of the Country Boys, broke during the interrogation of suspects. He identified individuals, showed investigators where purchases were made, and identified public pay phones used to conduct drug transactions. The evidence was used by Assistant Prosecutor Roberts to charge 43 people, many of whom were members of Lucas’ immediate family, with drug trafficking. Roberts had a weak case against Lucas, but with the help of the co-defendants, he was able to put together enough evidence to go to trial.
Several witnesses testified at the trial about the devastating effects of heroin, particularly Lucas’ “Blue Magic” brand, which was far more potent than most heroin and caused many overdose deaths. Roberts made his case against Lucas, claiming that the sale of Blue Magic had “killed more Black people than the KKK.” Lucas was sentenced to 70 years in prison after the jury returned a guilty verdict.
Lucas eventually turned informant and provided the names of Mafia associates and corrupt New York Police Department officers. He even gave up Atkinson, his heroin dealer in Thailand. Lucas’ testimony resulted in 150 multi-defendant cases, with three-quarters of New York’s Drug Enforcement Agency and 30 members of his family named as defendants.
Aftermath and Movie
Lucas’ sentence was reduced to 15 years in exchange for his information, and he was released in 1981. In 1984, he was arrested again for attempting to trade an ounce of heroin and $13,000 for a kilogram of cocaine. Richie Roberts, who had gone into private practice as a defense attorney by this point, contacted Lucas after learning of his former adversary’s arrest.
Despite the fact that Lucas had ordered a $100,000 contract on Roberts’ life during the first trial, he agreed to defend Lucas, who accepted. Lucas received a seven-year sentence, thanks largely to Roberts’ efforts; a light sentence for a man convicted twice for a similar crime.
When Roberts was released from prison in 1991, he contacted Lucas again and offered his assistance, this time to help him get his life in order. During the post-trial investigation, Lucas had developed a chilly relationship with Roberts. The relationship was now stronger because Roberts truly believed Lucas was sorry. In the process, Roberts became Lucas’ son’s godfather.
Lucas returned to a devastated Harlem after his final prison release to witness the poverty and squalor caused in part by his drug business. For the first time, he realized how damaging his business had been to individuals and an entire community. Lucas apologized, saying, “I did some heinous things… I’m deeply sorry for what I did. I truly am.”
As a result, he has spent the majority of his remaining life attempting to repair the damage he has caused. He collaborated with his daughter’s non-profit organization, Yellow Brick Roads, which provides a safe haven for children whose parents are incarcerated. In 2007, Hollywood paid Lucas another visit with the biopic American Gangster, starring Denzel Washington and depicting his criminal life.
Wife and Daughter
Julianna Farrait, a former Puerto Rican homecoming queen, was Lucas’ wife. She was imprisoned for five years for her involvement in her husband’s drug business. After Farrait was released from prison, the couple split up for several years before reuniting in 2006.
She was arrested again in 2010 for attempting to sell drugs, this time in her native Puerto Rico. She was sentenced to five years in prison.
Among his seven children, Francine Lucas-Sinclair founded Yellow Brick Roads, a safe haven for children of incarcerated parents.
Lucas died of natural causes on May 30, 2019, in a facility in Cedar Grove, New Jersey.
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