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Ricky Ross was once a drug kingpin who made $2 to $3 million a day and is now out of jail and rebuilding at-risk communities.
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Drug kingpin. Born on January 26, 1960, Ricky Donnell Ross spent his formative years in Troup, Texas, but soon relocated to Los Angeles, California. A talented tennis player, Ross was noticed by a talent scout while he was playing at a local park. As he and his friends began winning local championships, Ross started taking tennis seriously.
Academics, however, were another matter entirely. Ross was frustrated by his education at Dorsey High School, and failed to see the reasoning behind attending classes or studying. As a result, Ross was barely literate, but because of his athletic abilities he believed he was likely to receive a college scholarship. When Ross' tennis coach discovered that his student was functionally illiterate, however, all scholarship prospects evaporated.
Ross dropped out of high school and, while learning a trade at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College (LATTC), he began stealing and reselling car parts. A subsequent arrest terminated his work as a bookbinder and ended his LATTC tennis prospects. By 1979, he was out of school and looking for a new source of income. A friend approached Ross with some cocaine he had scored at college and suggested Ross sell it. Until then, cocaine was considered a drug too expensive for regular consumption and was all but non-existent in the lower-income areas of Compton and South Central Los Angeles. The region seemed to be a promising, untapped market for an enterprising dealer.
Although Ross didn't try it for himself until sometime later because of its high price, he did manage to sell it to neighbors and friend at a large profit. His customers were soon clamoring for more. Impressed, Ross decided to go into business as a full-time dealer.
The 19-year-old Ross then met Henry Corrales, a Nicaraguan drug supplier, through a former LATTC instructor. Corrales furnished Ross and his close friend and business partner, Ollie "Big Loc" Newell, with regular quantities of cut-rate cocaine. In turn, Ross and Big Loc, who were connected to the local Crips gang scene in Los Angeles, funneled this inexpensive drug into poorer communities, where demand grew at an exponential rate.
As their success grew, Ross and Big Loc decided to go into business for themselves. To buy the $300 in cocaine they needed to begin their own supply business, they stole a car and stripped it for parts. They used the money to invest in 3 grams of cocaine, and began selling to wealthier clients. By early 1980, after only six months of dealing, Ross and his partner had an exclusive client base and a steady supplier. By 1983, crack cocaine became the inner city drug of choice. Ross even developed a side business of ready-to-smoke freebase cocaine he called "Ready Rock." The business addition increased sales exponentially, and soon Ross was selling and making freebase in industrial batches and had multiple production houses. At the height of his success, he was able to sell somewhere in the range of $2 to $3 million of crack on a daily basis.
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