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Frank Lucas, drug kingpin depicted in ‘American Gangster,’ dies aged 88

This Nov. 2, 2007 file photo shows Frank Lucas, the man Denzel Washington portrayed in the film "American Gangster," in New York. .
This Nov. 2, 2007 file photo shows Frank Lucas, the man Denzel Washington portrayed in the film "American Gangster," in New York. . AP Photo/Jim Cooper, File

The former Harlem drug kingpin whose life became the basis for the 2007 movie American Gangster has died. Frank Lucas was 88.

His nephew Aldwan Lassiter says Lucas died Thursday in New Jersey, where he’d lived for years.

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Lucas became a major heroin dealer before being convicted in 1975 and sentenced to decades in prison. He turned informant and was released after about five years.

His story inspired the Ridley Scott-directed American Gangster, which starred Denzel Washington as Lucas.

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The movie got awards buzz but also brought scrutiny of dubious claims in Lucas’ legend, particularly a portrayal of him smuggling drugs in U.S. soldiers’ caskets during the Vietnam War.

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As for Lucas’ unquestioned role in supplying potent heroin, he said in 2007 that he regretted doing “some terrible things.”