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The second of two programs on ACCNUM 122385. One in this documentary series profiling some of America's most notorious and prolific black criminals. This installment focuses on cocaine kingpin "Freeway" Ricky Ross. Narrator Ving Rhames describes a heated town meeting in Watts, Los Angeles in November 1996, at which the head of the CIA, John Deutch, attempts to respond to a journalist's claims that the CIA actively worked with and funded South American drug traffickers. "Freeway" Ricky Ross, so called because of his childhood home's location, dreamed of becoming a professional tennis player to lift his single mother out of poverty, though his illiteracy forced him to enroll in trade school and then turn to selling drugs. Powdered cocaine was expensive and considered "the white man's drug," but a new recipe involving baking soda created a cheaper, fast-acting product known as crack. Ross began working with Danilo Blandon of Nicaragua, who gave him a good price for high-quality cocaine, and Ross soon became "the dealers' dealer." President Reagan was also a "rabid" supporter of the Nicaraguan contras, and turned to "other means" of working with them when Congress officially cut off aid to the country.

Ross had great financial success and became the "Moses in the streets" for crack cocaine, and though he was not generally violent, the gang members he employed to sell his product throughout Los Angeles and other American cities often were. He bought dozens of "rock houses," or homes transformed into drug dens, and though the police went as far as to use military tanks as "batter rams" against such establishments, Ross stayed largely under the radar thanks to Blandon's assistance and his own non-flashy demeanor. He was credited for "taking care of the whole hood" with jobs and opportunities, though his product gradually destroyed many citizens' lives, including those of "strawberries," or women who exchanged sexual favors for crack. The mainstream media finally took notice of the epidemic, prompting not only First Lady Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign but also new mandatory minimum prison sentences for crack cocaine, much longer than those for powdered cocaine, causing the prisons to swell with poor, black inmates. The so-called "Freeway Ricky Task Force" of police went to great extremes to capture him, including carrying around drugs to plant on him if necessary, and though Ross moved to Ohio for a time, he eventually returned to Los Angeles and was finally arrested in 1989. He testified against the crooked task force cops, however, and his sentence was reduced to five years.

Once out of prison, Ross was determined to build a youth center to keep the local kids away from his career path, and he agreed to work with Blandon again on one final scheme to acquire the necessary money for the project. It was a set-up, however, and journalist Gary Webb soon found links between the CIA and many South American cartels, reinforced by the fact that Blandon was given a reduced sentence and then a green card for his work with the DEA, despite having actively aided Ross' empire. Congresswoman Maxine Waters also found a 1982 agreement from the CIA promising to keep their assets' drug-related crimes under wraps, and though the CIA denied the Blandon connection, they eventually more or less admitted working with the contras. Ross received life in prison without parole, though his associate Chico Brown was released and now works as a youth counselor for at-risk kids. Ross' appeal was approved in 2002, meaning that he is set for release in 2009, and the areas of Los Angeles hit hardest by the crack epidemic are slowly working towards improvement, though the mandatory sentences are still in effect. Blandon's whereabouts are currently unknown, and though Webb's exposé was a sensation, he was later considered a "pariah" by the media and committed suicide in 2004. No government officials were ever convicted of any trafficking-related crimes, but Ross remains determined to make "positive impacts" on his community upon his release. Commercials deleted.


  • DATE: 10:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 0:41:17
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: 123095
  • GENRE: Public affairs/Documentaries
  • SUBJECT HEADING: African-American Collection - News/Talk; Crime and criminals; Public affairs/Documentaries
  • SERIES RUN: BET - TV series, 2006-


  • Nelson George … Executive Producer
  • Frank Sinton … Executive Producer
  • Steven Michaels … Executive Producer
  • Tiffany Reis … Coordinating Producer
  • Eric M. Johnson … Coordinating Producer
  • Mark Rowland … Supervising Producer
  • Shayla Hebron … Associate Producer
  • Shelley Storm … Line Producer
  • Lea Walker … In-House Line Producer
  • Mark Qura Rankin … Music by
  • Derryck "Big Tank" Thornton … Music by
  • Ving Rhames … Narrator
  • Ricky "Freeway" Ross … Interviewee
  • Maxine Waters … Interviewee
  • Chico Brown … Interviewee
  • John Deutch
  • Gary Webb
  • Danilo Blandon
  • Ronald Reagan
  • Nancy Reagan
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