Streaming on Netflix, How to Become a Mob Boss brings out the life journeys of different mafia bosses. The second episode highlights the life of Frank Lucas, a drug lord in New York during the 1960s. How he raised his empire from scratch through extensive research, incorporating different business tactics, has been showcased. The narration of Peter Dinklage and the amazing storytelling through the animations in the documentary adds color to the story of the greater-than-life drug mafia, Frank Lucas. In what ways does Frank think to prosper in the business of heroin? Will Frank be able to save his business ultimately? Let us find out!
How Did Frank Get Into The Heroin Business?
Born in rural North Carolina during the Great Depression, the heroin tycoon Frank Lucas made his way into the business by creating his own supply chain. He earned a profit of more than a million dollars in one day. George Anastasia, the crime writer, is of the view that no business is morally wrong because it is all about grabbing money. Richie Roberts, the former detective in the NYPD, states that it is necessary that a mob boss has a proper business plan, as without it, the structure is likely to collapse. There are high chances for one to succeed if intellect and muscle are put to use together.
When Frank arrived in New York, he was illiterate and had no job. He got involved in a life of crime and started selling drugs. He had met his mentor, Bumpy Johnson, who was more like a dad figure to him. Frank recalls working 13 years, 89 months, and 8 days for him. After Bumpy’s demise, Frank got involved in the business and included his family members. He involved his seven brothers in the business, making them rich and ensuring that his inner circle was loyal.
How Did He Show His Authority?
It is important to immediately show the opponents the consequences of messing with a mafia boss’ reputation. It is the true way to become a true mob boss because, in a world so grim, showing one’s vulnerable side to others can result in death. There are a lot of examples of what mafias have done to maintain their image. Whitey Bulger took over Boston’s Winter Hill Gang and killed Louis Litif, an associate who disobeyed his orders. Albert Anastasia murdered a salesman, Arnold Schuster, for aiding the police in their search for a culprit. Griselda Blanco, the ruler of the Miami Cocaine Trade, had maintained her authority by enlisting motorcycle hitmen called sicarios, who killed in broad daylight.
There were several threats that Frank faced during the early stages of his business. In the 1960s, a menace was created by Tango, a freelance heroin dealer in Harlem. He was known for cheating the drug suppliers, but Frank had to put an end to it and show everyone his authority. He supplied 1 kilo of heroin to Tango, and after 2 weeks, when he refused to pay up, he was shot dead openly on the streets to send out a clear message to the others that the real boss was in town.
How Did He Manage The Supply Chain?
The supply chain of the heroin business, being international, cuts out a lot of profit for the middlemen. When Frank started his business, the heroin supply came to the US through the “French Connection”. The process started with poppies being grown in Turkey, and then the opium sap was harvested and boiled with lime to separate morphine. The product was then taken to France, where morphine was chemically turned into heroin. The Corsican Mafia moved the heroin from the Atlantic to America. The American people then could sell it at a profit of up to 400%, which then hit the streets and reached domestic dealers like Frank. It was the middleman that Frank wanted to get rid of for better profit margins.
He came up with an idea to get heroin supply from Asia, as his plan was to bypass the French Connection and make his personal pipeline to smuggle in heroin from the far East. He had his cousin, Ike Atkinson, who had retired as an army sergeant in Asia. He was asked to get directly in touch with the poppy harvesters. On traveling to Bangkok, Ike introduces Frank to a local supplier who is instantly ready to sell him more than 200 kg of heroin at one-tenth of the price that the mafia charged. Frank immediately agreed and took up the deal! To ensure that the operation was functioning well, he trekked into the Thai jungle for days and finally reached the promised land. However, on his way back, he was attacked by bandits, but he managed to defeat them and return to his city. He had been successful in being able to manage a direct supply chain for his business.
How Were The Sales Managed?
Frank realized that sales had to be managed efficiently to maintain his grip on the market. Emily Sweeney, a reporter for the Boston Globe, said that cornering the market meant gaining a charge and charging whatever money they could. Some examples include Enoch Nucky Johnson, who utilized his political contacts to manage Atlantic City rackets, earning him half a million dollars in a year and 9 million dollars out of illegal booze, gambling, and prostitution. Nicodemo Scarfo, the Philadelphia mob boss, was able to seize control over the Meth market, by smuggling more than 100 gallons of P2P, an essential chemical needed to cook meth. Cheng Chui Ping, also known as the “mother of all snakeheads,” was the owner of 40 million dollars by providing smugglers and reigning a large stretch from the UK to China.
Frank, however, had something greater on his mind! There was no problem with demand in Harlem, as 80% of the addicts lived there, but the increasing competition was a formidable threat. Some of the competing brands were Mean Machine, Could Be Fatal, Taster’s Choice, Payback, and others. Frank’s brand, Blue Magic, focused on unique packaging and provided a purity level of 5-7% as compared to other products having only 1-3% purity. It was considered a premium product and hence needed quality control. Red Top was put in charge of manufacturing the product, and as time went by, he started hiring more employees. He kept shifting the manufacturing plant from time to time, paying off the cops with a hefty amount.
What Ways Did He Adapt To Do Money Laundering?
Another major threat that could overturn Frank’s business was his black money and enormous cash flow. Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor, said that the mobsters were liable to provide some account of their money. There are three steps in money laundering; the first step includes “placement.” It demands opening a legitimate business with a bank account to dump the illicit profits. The second step is “layering,”, which includes making complex transactions to separate illegal money from its source, like buying gold and then again cashing it in. It then needs to be sent from one international bank to another, making it almost impossible to trace. The third step involves “integration,” or investing the laundered money into a legitimate financial flow. Frank had many contacts in New York, such as the Chemical Bank. They helped him launder all his black money and helped him roam around a free man in the city. Frank was clever enough to generate clean cash and invest it in businesses like clubs, stores, office buildings, ranches, and others. Despite his wrongdoings, he had become a part of the upper social class.
What Led To His Fall?
The bad days of Frank were, however, not far behind, as the government took notice when there was a boom of addiction-related deaths in the city. It was the year 1971, when President Nixon declared a war on drugs. In order to escape the government’s wrath, he started PR campaigns, loaning people money, and taking care of people. He wanted to keep a set of people on his side to help him maintain his business. He also had to face corrupt NYPD officers who would take money out of him to keep his business in place. A greater threat came to Frank from the DEA, as the officials had been gathering information on Frank’s operation for quite some time. He was finally arrested, sent to federal and state drug trafficking trials, and found guilty. Frank was sent to prison for 70 years! Being a witty man, Frank made a deal with the government, promising to give out information on other gang members who were working for him so that his sentence could be reduced.
Frank Lucas had made such foolproof plans to earn money through his heroin business that even the law couldn’t get to him for a long time. The series How to Become a Mob Boss is all about highlighting the aura of criminals like Frank. The episode, however, educates us a lot on the ways of carrying out proper business plans. There is not a single loophole in the episode that I can think of. The documentary was fascinating to watch, and it clearly gives out the message that illiteracy is at the root of all wrongdoings by an individual. The government should come up with new strategies to eradicate illiteracy among people and reduce crime rates.