Richie Roberts

Former Detective & Prosecutor Made Famous in the Hit Film
"American Gangster"

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At the Podium

At the podium, Roberts captivates audiences with the spellbinding story of his pursuit and capture of Lucas. Drawing from his experiences, Roberts takes audiences on the wild and often harrowing trail of the American gangster. In a separate program, Roberts taps into his expertise in narcotics enforcement to delve deeply into the war on drugs. By asking difficult questions about past and current drug traffic, the penal system’s successes and failures, and the culture of drug use, Roberts invigorates the dialog on the nation’s drug problems and enforcement.

About Richie Roberts

In 1970s New York, there was no bigger, more notorious drug dealer than Frank Lucas, who the ruled the streets of Newark and Harlem. Nefariously brilliant, Lucas was a drug lord and killer who smuggled some of the most potent heroin ever seen in America from Southeast Asia, utilizing caskets and body bags of deceased American soldiers returning from the Vietnam War.

Richie Roberts is the larger-than-life detective who ended Lucas’s reign and brought him to justice. Tough, determined and fearless, Roberts worked at grave personal risk to painstakingly put together the case that would earn Frank Lucas a sentence of 30 years to life in federal prison. Lucas returned the favor by putting out a $100,000 contract on Robert’s life. The contract was never carried out and Lucas became a government informant, earning him release after serving seven years. The information obtained from Lucas led to scores of convictions, including cases against corrupt police officers, and forged an unlikely friendship between the two former enemies.

The 2007 hit film American Gangster, starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, tells the story of Roberts’s pursuit of Lucas. The two served as creative consultants on the film, ensuring the story was accurately retold.

Speech Topics

  • On the Trail of an American Gangster
  • War on Drugs: Then and Now

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