Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sgt Smack-The Real Story Behind "American Gangster"

Gary Fouse

Some time ago, I wrote a post on the movie, "American Gangster", a greatly distorted account of New York heroin dealer Frank Lucas. I mentioned that a book was in the works about Leslie "Ike" Atkinson, the true kingpin of the organization based in Southeast Asia and North Carolina in the 1970s. Now that book is on the bookshelves. Since I gave some historical assistance to the author, Ron Chepesiuk, in regards to the events in Thailand, the publisher and author have sent me a flyer, which I would like to post here.

New Biography of Drug Kingpin Ike Atkinson Uncovers Biggest Hoax in the History of the International Drug Trade

"Sergeant Smack:
The Legendary Lives and Times of
Ike Atkinson, Kingpin,
and His Band of Brothers"
Hits Bookstores June 21

Former Kingpin Ike Atkinson and Crime Author Ron Chepesiuk to Embark on Book Tour

Raleigh, North Carolina - In what might be considered a 'literary' showdown, award winning crime author Ron Chepesiuk uncovers one of the biggest hoaxes in the history of the international drug trade in his new release, "Sergeant Smack: The Legendary Lives and Times of Ike Atkinson, Kingpin, and his Band of Brothers." Slated to hit bookshelves on June 21, just days after "American Gangster" Frank Lucas' book is released, "Sergeant Smack" details the true legend of Ike Atkinson, one of the biggest Black drug traffickers in U.S. history.

Atkinson pioneered some of the most innovative methods used in international drug smuggling. They ranged from duffle and AWOL bags, to the U.S. Army Postal System to the use of unsuspecting crew chiefs who operated military aircraft to teakwood furniture.

But, contrary to popular belief, Atkinson's methods did not include the bogus cadaver-heroin smuggling connection conspiracy exploited by Frank Lucas in Hollywood's blockbuster film, "American Gangster." The film not only distorted Atkinson's historical role in the international drug trade, but falsely depicted Lucas as the pioneer of the Asian heroin connection. As the book, "Sergeant Smack" conclusively shows, the conspiracy is a hoax, as is Frank Lucas' claims to participation with Ike in the conspiracy.

"One of the major reasons we decided to do the book was to set the record straight on the cadaver-heroin conspiracy hoax," Atkinson explains. "It's truly amazing to me that the media and the public have bought Frank Lucas' story without checking it out. Lucas' claims defy common sense. How could Lucas mastermind the cadaver-heroin connection when he was never in the military? Why would I ship dope via such a grisly method when I had much easier and safer ways to ship it? Why hasn't anybody stepped forward to verify Lucas' claim? Why has no one ever been arrested or convicted?"

Chepesiuk is no newcomer to uncovering crime. He has penned some 25 books including titles, "Gangsters of Miami," "Drug Lords, the Rise and Fall of the Cali Cartel," "Gangsters of Harlem" and "Gangsters of Chicago" and over 4000 articles and features. His last book, "Gangster of Miami" was the award winner in the "True Crime" category of the 2010 National Indie Excellence Awards and won the silver prize (second place) in the True Crime category of Foreword Magazine's 2009 Book of the Year awards.

Chepesiuk contends that Frank Lucas stole much of the gangster legend that positioned him as Hollywood's big ticket from Ike Atkinson. Now 84-years old, Atkinson was recently released from federal prison after serving a 32-year prison term. Deemed one of the biggest American drug kingpins ever to operate out of Asia, Atkinson, who operated in the 1970s, never carried a gun, never committed murder and never bowed down to the infamous Italian La Cosa Nostra. As a U.S. Army Master Sergeant, he utilized his intellect and charm to, by conservative estimates, smuggle over 1000 pounds of heroin annually from Bangkok, Thailand, through U.S. military bases into the United States. Atkinson's notorious enterprise was so complex and profitable; it easily rivaled that of popular modern day hoodlums, the Black Mafia Family.

"It will be interesting to see how this ultimately unfolds," observes Chepesiuk. "With both of these crime legends having books come out in the same month, readers should find it interesting to actually document the truth behind the drama. For example, in the movie version of his life, and in Mark Jacobson's New York Magazine article, upon which the movie is based, Lucas claims to buy dope in Bangkok from a mysterious drug trafficker he called '007.' 007 was in reality, Luchai Ruviwat, Ike's partner!"

Chepesiuk adds. "What Lucas knew about the Golden Triangle he learned from his visit to Bangkok under the guidance of Ike Atkinson and from the stories he heard while there at Jack's American Star Bar, a venue co-owned by Ike. Also, interestingly, Frank Lucas is not Ike Atkinson's cousin, as portrayed in the movie. In no way are they related by blood!"

Ike Atkinson has publicly requested a sit-down interview with Frank Lucas, but it has been to no avail as Lucas has yet to respond.

Ike Atkinson and Ron Chepesiuk are planning an East Coast book signing tour that kicks off on July 17 at Black Star Video in Harlem, New York City. Join Ike Atkinson on Facebook for tour updates and details.

See and hear from Ike Atkinson himself
at youtube.com and read about him at IkeAtkinsonKingpin.com. For more information about Ron Chepesiuk, go to ronchepesiuk.com .

And pick up the "Sergeant Smack: The Legendary Lives and Times of Ike Atkinson, Kingpin, and his Band of Brothers" online or at a bookstore near you!

Note to the media: Both Ron Chepesiuk and Ike Atkinson are available for interviews. Contact jazzmynepr@gmail.com. E-book copies of Sergeant Smack" available upon request.

(I must admit that I am a little uncomfortable in promoting Leslie Atkinson's part in this, but he did spend over 30 years in prison, so I suppose he has paid his debt to society.)

From 1975-1978, while being stationed in Bangkok, Thailand, I became involved in the Bangkok end of the DEA investigation into the Atkinson organization. This group consisted of retired army NCOs who set up a heroin smuggling ring from Bangkok to the US utilizing the military transportation system. Shipments of heroin to the US usually consisted of approximately 50 kilos of pure heroin per shipment. Once retrieved in the US, the heroin was distributed to local dealers in various US cities including Frank Lucas in New York. Contrary to "American Gangster", Atkinson, not Lucas controlled the smuggling operation and supervised those in Bangkok. In
1976, Atkinson and about 10 others including his daughter and son-in-law were tried in Federal Court in Raleigh, North Carolina. I attended the trial in Raleigh, in which Atkinson was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison. (Atkinson was already incarcerated in Atlanta penitentiary on a previous conviction. He was only released a couple of years ago. He is now in his eighties.)

Chepesiuk is an internationally recognized crime writer, and if you want to learn the real story behind "American Gangster" (of which Lucas was really only one figure) then you might want to pick up a copy. (You might even find my name in there once or twice.)

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