Frank Lucas: Man who inspired American Gangster dies aged 88

Frank Lucas, in his 70s, in New York wearing sunglasses Image copyright Getty Images

Frank Lucas, the notorious Harlem drug lord whose life inspired the 2007 film American Gangster, has died.

Born in North Carolina in 1930, he moved to New York where he became a prolific heroin trafficker throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1976 he was sentenced to decades in prison, but later provided evidence to police and was freed after five years.

A family member told US media he died from natural causes, aged 88, on Thursday in New Jersey.

Lucas, who imported heroin directly from South-East Asia, was known for his lavish lifestyle.

In 1975 he had his assets and property seized by police. At one New Jersey address, authorities reportedly found more than $584,000 (£462,000) in cash.

After his co-operation helped with police arrest others in the trade, Lucas had his jail-time radically reduced.

Despite returning again to prison for another drug conviction in the 1980s, he had been free for almost 30 years until his death.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The film about his life starred actors Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe

Notably, he formed a friendship with one of the narcotics agents who had helped arrest him – Richard Roberts.

Reflecting on their unusual bond, Roberts told local news website NJ.com he had expected Lucas to “live forever”.

Lucas’ life story was adapted, and embellished, for the big screen by director Ridley Scott. Actor Denzel Washington played Lucas – who helped out with production.

Doubt have since been cast on many details portrayed within the film, such as the smuggling of drugs inside of returning Vietnam war coffins.

In 2012 Lucas had a final brush with the law. He was given probation after reportedly lying over federal disability payments.

Celebrity news website TMZ reports that he is survived by seven children.

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