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Frank Lucas was born in La Grange, North Carolina, on September 9, 1930 and grew up in Greensboro as a country boy. His biography, as in the case of many larger-than-life personalities, is full of mysterious facts and myths, much of which Lucas has perpetuated by himself. He grew up during the great depression period when most of the rural South American families were suffering from deep poverty. Most of his early years were spent getting into trouble and looking after his younger siblings. During this period, one incident occurred that sparked his interest influencing him to crime rings. Frank witnessed his cousins murder by five members of the Ku Klux Klan when he was only six years old. Shrouded in hoods and sheets, they showed up at the shack where he lived at night and killed Franks 13-year-old cousin on the spot; their main reason for the murder was that the boy ambiguously looked at a white woman. However, investigators have never uncovered any evidence to support this claim just like most of the myths that Frank Lucas commands (Kelley, 2009).
With the depression raging on, Lucas had to find ways for the family to survive since he was the oldest boy in the family. He had to resort to stealing food because during this period, it was really difficult to secure any meaningful job; as he got stronger and older, he started mugging drunken customers at the local tavern. Later, in his teen years, he secured a job at a pipe company as a truck driver, which did not last long since he was caught engaged in inappropriate behavior with the employers daughter. This resulted in a fight, and in the process, he managed to set the establishment on fire after stealing 400 dollars from the company till. His mother pleaded with him for fleeing from justice and moving to New York (Mishra, 2013).
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After heeding his mothers advice, in the summer of 1946, frank Lucas arrived in Harlem where he saw how the streets provided faster chances of making real money through drugs and illegal gambling. He got deeply engaged in these and other crimes, and with each ensuing crime, he became more ruthless and bold. His activity finally caught the attention of Bumpy, or Ellsworth Johnson, a gangster who effectively controlled extortion and gambling operations in Harlem. Under the tutorship of Bumpy, Frank Lucas not only learned a lot, but he took the lessons a notch above to eventually be accredited as the 20th century most lucrative crime organization. After the death of Johnson in 1968, Lucas took the opportunity to seize control of Harlem, which he used to grab a large portion of the territory.
This continued until the late 60 and 70s period when Lucas set up a shop to exploit and map out a traffic route from Southeast Asia directly to Harlem, NY mainly for narcotics. He became famous in the drug trade for cutting out middlemen and establishing smuggling of heroin from Vietnam by using US servicemen caskets. His operations grossed a reported 1,000,000 million dollars daily during the operations peak; this eventually helped him amass 250,000,000 million dollars worth of fortune (Jacobson, 2000).
Through his many connections outside the country, his potential seemed to be infinite since he could effectively manage to get and sell the narcotics in the streets, and this ingenuity made him one of the most outrageous international smuggling gangs ever in American history. His vast drug empire spans from South East Asia to New York, and he made his trademark through dealings that involved bribery, extortions and killings.
The crime trail started with the realization that there was need to fill the gap that Bumpy Johnson left. In order to do this, Frank Lucas had to completely break the Italian mafia monopoly and, in addition, take over the management of Bumpy Johnsons operations. His plan was to bypass the Harlem heroin drug trade managed by the mafia and go directly to their source. To achieve this, he traveled to Bangkok in 1968 and enlisted the help of Leslie Ike Atkinson who not only came from North Carolina, Greensboro but also had married one of the cousins of Lucas, and this selective collaboration was Lucass way of dealing since he only hired close friends or family as a policy (Raw, 2009).
The two enlisted servicemen and drafters helped establish their distribution system globally. High ranking and key military personnel both in the South Vietnamese and American army were bought into the strategic system by using a combination of pricy bribes and charm as modes of recruitment, which he would personally oversee to the end as with all his other operations.
After setting the distribution network, his plan included using the military planes to ship the heroine to other seaboard military bases in the eastern side. The packages from there would be sent to accomplices who prepared and unpackaged the heroin ready for sale. Using a hyperbole, Lucas suggested that they managed this feat by stashing the drugs in cadavers or in the dead servicemen coffins fitted with fake bottoms just enough to hide 6 to 8 kilos of heroin. This has been another source of controversy since Atkinson claims he only packed the smuggled heroin in furniture, which is in contrast to Frank Lucass claims (Lucas, 2008).
Back in the States to set up his organization, Frank Lucas used a combination of both intelligence and toughness covering every detail of the operation carefully by contracting only his trusted close friends and relatives from North Carolina. After moving five of his younger brothers to New York where they became known as the country boys, they effectively controlled their brothers territory, mainly Harlems 7 and 8 avenues on the 116 street.
Since he got his drugs directly from the source and without the middlemen, his products were of higher quality compared to other drug peddlers; this not only gave him more customers but also enabled him to price higher compared to other heroine sold in the street. To maintain the protection on his properties and investments, Lucas inflicted fear and brutal violence on anyone who opposed his reign or posed a threat to his operations. This harsh rule helped instill respect and admiration among business partners and friends (Raw, 2009).
The heroine drug operations, both transporting and obtaining of the drugs, would not have been successful in the South East Asia if the corrupt military personnel did not help. This still applied to selling drugs on the streets of Harlem, which was aided by the dishonest personnel of the (SIU) New York Police Departments Special Investigations Unit who even though had unlimited authority and jurisdiction were hopelessly corrupt with many of its officers being paid by drug dealers to overlook their peddling vices.
In 1975, in New Jersey, Frank Lucas was arrested and convicted of both New Jersey federal and state drug violations. His house in New Jersey, Teaneck in 1975 was raided by a ten-men task force from the New York Police Department detectives attached to the Organized Crime Control Bureau (OCCB) 10 officers and 10 agents from Group 22 of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. During the raid, the authorities found in house 584,683 dollars in cash. Lucas was later convicted of both New Jersey state drug violations and Federal state drug violations; later, he was sentenced to 70 years in prison (Raw, 2009).
The aftermath of his crime trail, arrests and conviction was that he assisted law enforcers to arrest and convict more than 100 other people involved in drug related crimes. In 1977, Lucas and his family were placed in witness protection programs out of fear for their lives. Being in custody for 5 years, his 30-year state term and 40-year Federal term were reduced to served time plus lifetime parole in 1981. Later in 1984, he was convicted after being caught again for trying to change a kilogram of cocaine for 13,000 dollars and exchanging an ounce of heroine. The main surprise is that he got a seven year sentence after being defended by Richie Roberts who was formerly his prosecutor and was later released in 1991 (Lucas, 2008).
After his final prison release, Frank Lucas returned to a devastated Harlem to witness the squalor and poverty caused in part by his drug business aftermath. For the first time possibly, he understood how destructive his business had been to the entire community and individuals. As a result of this, he has joined efforts with his daughters to create Yellow Brick Roads, a non-profit organization where he spends much of his remaining life working to repair the damage he caused.
In conclusion, Frank Lucas tale is one that is both thrilling and frightening at the same time since it summarizes the often told American dream story gone wrong. These compelling facts have seen the biography of frank Lucas being adopted into a movie.
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