BY Stephen Nartey, 4:00pm April 03, 2023,

The Black Caesar: America’s most powerful drug kingpin in the early 70s

Frank Matthews/Photo credit: Mob Museum

His disappearance has continued to intrigue and fascinate people over the years. Known as the Black Caesar by law enforcement officers, Frank Matthews rose to become America’s most powerful drug kingpin by the early 1970s. His bail during his arrest is the highest to have been set by the FBI since its use in the capture of the notorious bank robber, John Dillinge.

Frank was granted a bail of $5 million by the federal magistrate, but when he served notice of not fighting his extradition to New York, the court slashed the amount into half. When he landed in New York, the bail fee was reduced again to $325,000. He was charged with six counts of tax evasion and conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine, facing a 50-year possible jail term. However, on the day he was to appear in court, July 2, 1973, in Brooklyn, he never showed up.

Since then, law enforcement officers and civilians have never seen Frank in public. It is speculated he took out $15 million from his safety deposit, and eloped with his mistress to avoid conviction in the U.S., according to all that’s interesting. He left behind his entire family, including his wife, and three sons, as well as mansions throughout New York and a home in a Staten Island neighborhood popular with the Italian Mafia.

Frank was born on February 13, 1944, in Durham, North Carolina. In the mid-1990s, Durham was a predominantly black community with the people controlling virtually all the sectors of their economy. He attended Hillside High School, but, he dropped out along the line. His journey into the criminal underworld began when he was arrested for stealing chickens and selling them as his own at the age of 17. The police released him after they indicated he was a first-time offender who was polite during his arrest. He relocated to Philadelphia and began plying his trade as a barber.

Frank had engagements with Italian drug kingpins while working as a barber, which exposed him to several individuals. It was Cuban drug dealer, Ronaldo Gonazales, who in an attempt to escape arrest from U.S. officials, gave Frank his first kilo.

When the Cuban drug dealer got to Venezuela, he linked Frank to the French Connection, an infamous drug ring. It is believed that Frank, at some point, made $10 million from his drug business. He had a stronghold of the East Coast to the South, and was believed to be a drug supplier in over 20 states.

As his influence grew, he began attracting hatred from the mafias in the business. The Italians were baying for his blood, but Frank wasn’t bothered. The French also wanted him dead, but he cared less. Those who blew the whistle on him to the FBI included the Head of the Mafia Commission, Carlo Gambino, who provided the number plates of those who dealt with Frank, according to the boss.

Law enforcement agencies used the information to pin down Frank and his associates in Las Vegas. He was indicted in January 1973, and his bail was 5 million dollars, the highest bail ever at the time. When it was reduced to $325,000, the Durham community didn’t want him to pay with his money, so they raised the amount and paid it off for him.

Frank’s disappearance has become legendary, his story continues to captivate and intrigue people to this day. There are many theories about what happened to Frank Matthews. Some believe he escaped to Venezuela to hide out with “Spanish Raymond” Marquez, while others believe he may have been captured by other crime families or the Black Mafia. Either way, if he was or is still alive, he would be 73 in 2023.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: April 3, 2023


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