Who Is Lorenzo Nichols?
Lorenzo Nichols was one of the top drug lords in New York City in the 1980s. Nichols controlled a network of deals in Queens, New York, many of the crew members being his close family. Among numerous crimes, he is responsible for the killing of his former parole officer and girlfriend. He is currently serving time in a New York State corrections facility.
Lorenzo "Fat Cat" Nichols was born on December 25, 1958, in Birmingham, Alabama. During the 1980s, Nichols became one of the top drug lords in New York City. He got his nickname "because of his linebacker-thick neck, a head so big it nearly blocked out his friends' faces in snapshots, and his rangy beard," according to Ethan Brown's book Queens Reigns Supreme: Fat Cat, 50 Cent, and the Rise of Hip-Hop Culture.
Nichols spent his early years in Alabama, where he was raised by his maternal grandmother. Around the age of 10, he moved to Queens, New York, to live with his mother, Louisa, and her third husband.
Life of Crime
Dropping out of school before the ninth grade, Nichols started to run with a dangerous crowd. He became a member of the Seven Crowns street gang. In 1976, Nichols committed two robberies with another young man. He was convicted for both crimes and sentenced to 18 years in jail, but was released in 1980 after serving only two and a half years.
Around this time, Nichols moved on to the more lucrative crime of drug dealing. He was able to get into the business through a Mafia connection. At the time, the Mafia controlled most of the drug trade on the East Coast. Nichols established a network of dealers to work the streets and the housing projects of southeast Queens and also sold drugs to other operations in the area as well.
Many members of Nichols's crew were close family relatives, including his mother and two of his sisters. Brian "Glaze" Gibbs was another trusted associate as was Joseph "Mike Bones" Rogers. A friend from prison, Howard "Pappy" Mason, was also a key part of Nichols's operation. Nichols's headquarters was Big Mac's Deli, a business he and his wife Joanne took over from her father.
On July 29, 1985, Nichols found himself back in police custody after a raid on Big Mac's Deli. The police caught him with two guns. The search also netted $180,000 in cash and varying amounts of heroin, cocaine and marijuana. Charged with gun- and drug-possession, Nichols was able to get out on bail. He was soon arrested again by his parole officer, Brian Rooney, for violating his parole. Angry to be back in jail, Nichols ordered a few of his associates to rough up Rooney. Rooney was shot to death on October 10. He was indicted on charges of second-degree murder for the killing of Rooney in July 1987. At a later trial, Nichols insisted that he never intended for Rooney to be killed.
From behind bars, Nichols continued running his drug operation and dealing harshly with those who went against him. He later admitted to ordering the murders of two people. In 1986, Isaac Bolden was shot and killed by Nichols's associates after he and a few others robbed Nichols's then-girlfriend, Karolyn Tyson.
Nichols's former girlfriend, Myrtle "Myesha" Horsham, also met a grisly fate after she took money from his drug operation. It didn't even matter that she and Nichols had a child together, a son named T.C. In December 1987, Horsham and a friend were shot several times by members of Nichols's crew. The friend lived, but Horsham died of her injuries. T.C. was with Horsham at the time of the shooting, and was later dropped off in his maternal grandmother's yard.
Nichols later stated that he had Horsham killed because "she was my girl and ... she took my money and spent it on another person," according to a report in The New York Times.
Nichols soon found his own family under siege. His wife was kidnapped in May 1987 and held for ransom. After paying off the kidnappers, she was released. The kidnappers were later apprehended. Other members of his family were not so fortunate. In May 1988, the home of Louise Coleman, Nichols's mother, was firebombed. His mother and stepfather escaped unharmed, but his invalid half-sister Mary died in the fire.
By that time, however, Nichols had been convicted of several counts of drug-related and weapons-related crimes. He had been convicted in January 1988 and later sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. But this was only the part of his legal woes. The cold-blooded murder of police officer Edward Byrne in February 1988 by his associate Mason created a public outcry, and the authorities turned up the heat on Nichols's operation.
Guilty Plea and Prison Sentence
In 1992, Nichols pleaded guilty to the murder charges related to Rooney's death. He was given 25 years to life in prison for that crime. Around that same time, Nichols pleaded guilty to federal drug-related charges and racketeering-related murder charges, and subsequently received a sentence of 40 years in prison. The sentence was to be served concurrently with the state charges. While he could have been facing life in prison for the federal charges, Nichols was given a lighter sentence for agreeing to cooperate with the authorities. His main motivation behind this decision may have been to help his mother and girlfriend, both facing charges related to their role in his drug business, receive lighter sentences.
Nichols is currently serving his time in the New York State corrections system. In 2010, the New York Daily News published a letter that Nichols had written the publication from his prison cell. "I have nothing but time to ponder my misdeeds," Nichols wrote, adding, "To the victims of my criminal activities, I offer my deepest regret and sincerest apology."
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