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Sometimes called Mr. Untouchable, Leroy 'Nicky' Barnes became one of the biggest drug dealers in New York City during the 1970s.
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Born on October 15, 1933, in New York City, and called Mr. Untouchable, Leroy 'Nicky' Barnes became one of the most infamous drug dealers in New York during the 1970s. He helped found a criminal organization known as "The Council," which handled a large share of the city's heroin trade. In March 1977, he was arrested, jailed, and eventually released into the Witness Protection Program in 1998.
Organized crime figure. Born on October 15, 1933, in New York City. Sometimes called Mr. Untouchable, Leroy "Nicky" Barnes became one of the biggest drug dealers in New York City during the 1970s. He helped found a criminal organization known as "The Council," which handled a large share of the city's heroin trade.
According to his autobiography, Mr. Untouchable (2007), Barnes started selling drugs at an early age. He ran with a street gang for a time and developed a taste for heroin, which quickly became an addiction. In 1950, Barnes was arrested for possession of a hypodermic needle. He was later arrested for possession of burglary tools and then for breaking into cars, which earned him a three-year sentence at the Manhattan House of Corrections, more colorfully known as "The Tombs."
Released in 1954, Barnes returned to his life of dealing on the streets. He got nabbed by the police on a drug charge in 1959 and was sentenced to five years at Green Haven State Prison. While incarcerated, Barnes befriended known mob figure Matty Madonna. Both were engaged in the drug trade, and reportedly shared information on their illegal enterprises. Barnes was released in 1962, and sought to expand his underground operations.
Barnes's dream of creating a huge drug empire was interrupted in 1965. He was arrested for possession of more than $500,000 worth of narcotics, according to a report in The New York Times. The article indicated that the police considered Barnes "one of the biggest distributors of narcotics in Harlem and the Bronx." At this time, it was estimated that about 50 people worked for Barnes in his drug operation. Barnes claimed that he had been set up by the police on the possession charge in his autobiography.
In 1966, Barnes received a 15-to-20-year sentence, and went back to Green Haven State Prison. There he converted to Islam, and studied law journals. Also during his time at Green Haven, Barnes made friends with reported Mafia crime boss "Crazy Joey" Gallo.
Barnes eventually won his release on appeal in 1971. Inspired by the Italian Mafia, Barnes helped bring together a group of African-American drug dealers to form "The Council." The Council addressed such business issues as what drug suppliers to use and how to handle any difficult situations or people. Barnes, however, maintained veto power over the group's decisions. Prominent members of the Council include Frank James, Ishmeel Muhammed, Joseph "Jazz" Hayden, Thomas "Gaps" Foreman, and Guy Fisher. The group's motto, according to Barnes, was "treat my brother as I treat myself."
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More than 30,000 gangs plague American streets, wreaking havoc from Los Angeles to New York. This violent subculture floods cities with drug traffic, extortion, and even weapons trading. But some members stand apart from others for their fearless attitudes and business savvy. From Leroy "Nicky" Barnes, one of Harlem's biggest drug king pins, to Kody "Monster" Scott, a member of L.A.'s Crips gang by the age of 13, these notorious gangsters have become legendary for rising to the top of their organizations by pushing the limits, no matter the cost.
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