Even though Nicky Barnes was a notorious drug lord, he was a folk hero for many, especially in his home of Harlem, New York. Not much was known as to what happened to him, but now his daughter has revealed Barnes, who was known in law enforcement circles as Mr. Untouchable, died in 2012 at the age of 78 while in the Witness Protection program, according to the New York Times.
Barnes, who was portrayed by Cuba Gooding Jr in the Ridley Scott film “American Gangster” about another infamous Harlem Harlem drug dealer Frank Lucas, had entered the federal witness protection program and the reports of his death have still not been confirmed.
Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 69: Jamarlin Martin
Jamarlin goes solo to unpack the question: Was Barack Obama the first political anti-Christ to rise in Black America?
“Put on trial in 1977, Barnes was convicted and sent to prison for life without parole. As it turned out, he spent more than 20 years behind bars. While in jail, the Times said, Barnes became so incensed that his former associates were ruining his drug empire that he decided to testify against them. Following his release in 1998, federal authorities put him in witness protection, under a new name,” The Guardian reported.
At his peak, Barnes owned “as many as 200 suits, 100 pairs of custom-made shoes, 50 full-length leather coats, a fleet of luxury cars and multiple homes and apartments,” he said in an interview with the Times.
He used his millions to cast himself as the Robin Hood in Harlem by giving out money and even handing out turkeys on Thanksgiving.
According to the NY Times, his daughter confirmed the news via email. It read: “My sister and I have kept his passing private and have not released it publicly,” said his daughter in an email. “It still remains a sensitive topic given all that occurred. Our dad was very private and we wanted to respect that.”
When Barnes went into the witness protection program in 1998, his daughter was also brought into the program, the Shadow League reported.