Freeway Ricky Ross, Former LA Crack Kingpin, Busted in Northern California

Freeway Ricky Ross, dubbed the kingpin of crack cocaine by the LA Times, and a central figure in the CIA-crack-cocaine scandal of the 1990s, has been arrested near California's Emerald Triangle, the Times reports today. Although details of the case remain murky, the article seems to imply that Ross, who authorities say was carrying $100,000, may have been involved in a transaction involving marijuana, given that the location of his arrest is near the state's Emerald Triangle, the epicenter of America's underground pot economy.

A legendary figure in LA's drug scene in the 1980s, Ross was on trial for cocaine distribution in San Diego in 1996 when San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb published a three-part investigative series, “Dark Alliance,” revealing that much of Ross' cocaine had been supplied to him by Nicaraguans working with the CIA-backed anti-communist rebels, the so-called contras. Major newspapers eventually attacked Webb's reporting and the scandal drove him out of daily journalism and contributed to his 2004 suicide. After being sentenced to life in prison, Ross, who had been nearly illiterate when he entered prison, researched his case and managed to win his freedom after more than a decade behind bars.


As the Times notes, Ross was featured in the 2014 film Kill the Messenger (based on my similarly-titled biography of Webb as well as Webb's book expanding on his series). Ross was also the focus of his own autobiography (co-written with Cathy Scott) and a recent Al Jazeera documentary, Freeway: Crack in the System, which highlighted both his past escapades and more recent struggles, including his failed lawsuit against the Florida rapper and former correctional officer Rick Ross.

On his Facebook page, Ross, who is already out of custody, thanks the website TMZ for its “tremendous support” since he's been “released from behind enemy lines.”

Stay tuned for updates.

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