Even while he was building his nationwide drug empire, Demetrius Flenory never gave up on his childhood dream of becoming a hip-hop artist and producer. After a shooting at an Atlanta nightclub in 2003, the law started closing in, and his chances of going legit before it was too late started slipping away.
With Kate Leonard & Howell Hargett
Undeniable power. Unbelievable stories. Unlikely origins. Kingpins follows the rise and fall of rulers of the underworld. Every Friday, we examine the leaders of organized crime rings, and how money and power corrupted and changed their communities. What makes a kingpin or queenpin, and how can we stop them? Kingpins is part of the Parcast Network, and a production of Cutler Media. New episodes release on Fridays.
Growing up in poverty in Detroit, brothers Demetrius and Terry Flenory started dealing drugs to keep the family afloat before they were even old enough to drive. In 1989, Demetrius moved to Atlanta to expand his cocaine empire nationwide. He became a fixture of the city's nightlife scene, catching the attention of rappers like Young Jeezy...and DEA agents like Jack Harvey.
As Colombia descended into chaos in the late 1980s, the Orejuela Brothers knew there was only one way to save the Cali Cartel from crumbling: get rid of Pablo Escobar for good. They didn't anticipate that by bringing down their rival, they'd only be setting the stage for their own inevitable fall.
The Brothers infiltrated the streets of New York City and built the infrastructure for one of the United States’ largest cocaine rings in the 80s. Never getting caught by a local or federal enforcement officer, the Orejuela brothers thought they could continue their operation unscathed. However, more was happening behind-the-scenes than they ever knew.
At the height of their power, Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela were bringing in one million dollars a week by smuggling cocaine into New York City. In the 1980s, a war broke out between the Cali Cartel and the Medellin Cartel. Officials struggled to track down the notorious kingpins.
The two brothers that made up half of the Cali Cartel in Colombia, Gilberto and Miguel Orejuela became the leaders of one of the world’s most successful cocaine cartels in the 1970s. Most of the cocaine in New York City at the time was delivered by this massive operation that stretched from Bolivia to Peru.
One of the most powerful men in Chicago, Big Jim’s businesses ranged from brothels and opium dens to upscale dining. His political influence in the early 1900s helped shape the way American organized crime operated for decades to come. Nobody could take down Big Jim… but that doesn’t mean they didn’t try.
He had come from nothing, and yet had risen to become Chicago’s most feared and respected crime lord. Everybody knew Diamond Jim, and not just for his jewelry and that flashy three-piece suit he always wore. By 1914, Jim Colosimo controlled more than a 100 businesses in Chicago’s Red Light District.
Imprisoned in 1973 for drug crimes, he continued to oversee Chicago’s Gangster Disciples from his prison cell. Hoover used his time in prison to educate himself on politics and history. The Pontiac Prison Library provided a place for him to formulate a new plan: take the Gangster Disciples from street gang to political powerhouse.
The leader of one of Chicago's most dangerous gangs in the 1970s, Larry Hoover was only 23 when he was sent to a maximum-security prison. The police thought they’d taken one of Chicago’s most dangerous gang leaders out of the game, but they’d only given him a new territory to reign, and 3,200 new inmates to recruit.
This powerful Kingpin was responsible for the drug epidemic that gave D.C. the reputation as the “murder capital” of the U.S. Edmond’s infamous trial in 1989, required the jury to sit behind bulletproof glass for their protection.
He was the youngest drug lord in D.C. history and began selling drugs at the ripe old age of 9-years-old. By the mid-1980s, Rayful Edmond III controlled 60 percent of the drugs that came into the city and was making $300 million annually. But this would only be the beginning of his legendary reign.
After her husband's murder in 1986, Thelma stepped in and took over a nationwide drug operation, moving cocaine and heroin from LA to Philadelphia. She had no idea what she was getting herself into. Wright enjoyed the lavish lifestyle the drug trade afforded, but would soon learn the consequences of engaging with the criminal underworld.
For years, this queenpin watched from the shadows while her husband built a drug empire. After tragedy struck in 1986, Thelma was thrust into the center of the action navigating a bi-coastal drug trade between Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
He rose from nothing to become the drug-smuggling, secret-selling, military dictator of Panama throughout the 1980s. However, it turns out he had a great deal of help from the American CIA.
How did Manuel Noriega rise from nothing to become the drug-smuggling, secret-selling, military dictator of Panama? He had a great deal of help from the American CIA.
After the death of his boss, Bumpy Johnson in 1968, Frank Lucas is ready to capitalize on the open market. Originally a small-time dealer on the streets of Harlem, he becomes one of the most successful heroin dealers of all time.
Moving from North Carolina to New York City, Frank Lucas engaged in petty crime and pool hustling before he began smuggling drugs using coffins of dead American servicemen in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He cut out the middleman and bought heroin directly from the source.
This vicious leader had very little regard for human life it it stood in the way of his business. Pablo Acosta Villarreal commanded a 500 person operation on both sides of the border before his downfall and death in 1987.
He repaired schools, paid medical bills for the poor and elderly, in exchange for one thing: control. The whole town protected him. But who was the man that brought him down?