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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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Flush with cash, Barnes was known to live the high life. He frequented nightclubs and had numerous girlfriends in addition to his wife. A fan of flashy cars, he drove around in expensive vehicles such as Mercedes and Citroën-Maseratis. Barnes was often followed by law enforcement surveillance teams and enjoyed leading them on wild goose chases. He also liked to look good, owning approximately 300 custom-made suits, 50 leather coats, and 100 pairs of shoes.
Barnes ran afoul of the law several times in 1974. In May, he was arrested in connection to the murder of Clifford Haynes. Haynes was the brother of Guy Fisher's girlfriend who had run away with some of The Council's money. According to Barnes's autobiography, Haynes was killed in attempt to get information from him about his sister's whereabouts.
That December, Barnes was pulled by the police. The officers on the scene discovered more than $130,000 in cash in his car, and claimed that Barnes tried to bribe them—a claim he disputed. The following year, Barnes was found not guilty in the bribery case, and acquitted in the murder case. He was arrested again in October 1976 for possession of illegal weapons after he and some of his associates were pulled over by the police.
For a time, Barnes's ability to escape the long arm of the law earned him the nickname "Mr. Untouchable." But his luck ran out in March 1977 when he was arrested on narcotics conspiracy charges along with several of his associates. Barnes was also charged with operating a continuing criminal enterprise. Before his trial started, Barnes appeared on the cover of The New York Times Magazine. The accompanying article was titled "Mister Untouchable." President Jimmy Carter reportedly saw the article and put pressure on prosecutors to convict Barnes.
Barnes and his co-conspirators, including Guy Fisher, went on trial in September 1977. According to the case presented by United States attorney Robert B. Fiske Jr., the defendants had been selling roughly $1 million worth of heroin a month from a Harlem garage. An extensive undercover operation had gathered the evidence used in the case. After a two-month trial, Barnes and 10 of his co-defendants were found guilty. Fisher was acquitted of the charges.
On January 19, 1978, Barnes was sentenced to life in prison without parole, and sent to the Marion Federal Penitentiary in Illinois to serve his time. Barnes eventually decided to testify against some of his former associates, including Guy Fisher, in an attempt to shorten his sentence. In a joint interview with rival drug kingpin Frank Lucas in New York magazine, Barnes explained that he became a federal witness after feeling betrayed by his associates, especially Fisher. "When I went to the joint, I gave Guy Fisher a woman of mine and told him to look out for her, take care of her," Barnes said. But he was enraged to learn that Fisher had gotten romantically involved with her as well.
Barnes was then transferred to another facility with a special witness protection unit and testified in several cases.
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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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