Freeway Ricky Ross

Infamous drug kingpin Free Ricky Ross, who was busted in the act of trying to purchase 100 kilos of cocaine in 1996, finally saw the light of day Monday (May 4), when he was released prison after serving 20 years.

Ricky Ross, who many believe was the man rapper Rick Ross took his name from, oversaw a Los Angeles based multi-state drug operation in the early 1980s, which earned upwards of $2 million per day during its peak.

After L.A.P.D. set up a sting operation to bring him down (The Freeway Taskforce), Ricky finally turned himself in, weeks after a rogue police officer attempted to set him up and murder him in an alley. He was sentenced to prison and released in 1996.

Six months later, his former cocaine distributor, who was working for the CIA (unbeknownst to Ricky), asked Ricky for a favor — it turned out to be a set up. In 1996, Ricky Ross was sentenced to life in prison for orchestrating the purchase of over 100 kilos of cocaine from an undercover federal agent.

Eventually, Ross’ sentence was reduced through appeals, after a series of explosive articles by the late Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Gary Webb uncovered C.I.A.’s role in importing cocaine into black communities to fund Sandinistas in El Salvador, as part of the Iran-Contra scandal. Webb’s series, titled Dark Alliance, turned into a best-selling book that blew the lid off of the alleged C.I.A. complicity in the importation of cocaine into the US, creating the exceptionally profitable, and damaging, crack cocaine epidemic spread through many inner city neighborhoods.

Congressional Hearings, in the late-90s, found the book’s facts to be true.

Ricky Ross’ story reads like a page-turning novel or a blockbuster film, and has inspired rappers to name themselves after him, and even re-tell his stories as their own exploits, gaining international success. Although a pawn in a bigger scheme, Ricky realized that the damage done to inner city neighborhoods was unacceptable. Since being imprisoned, he’s devoted himself to making a difference in his community by teaching financial literacy to urban youth and teaching legal ways to financially empower themselves.

When Ricky first went to prison, he was illiterate — the educational system in South Central L.A. had failed him, even though he went on to become a multi-millionaire savvy at numerous legitimate businesses, and a tennis pro. Reading a book a week during his lengthy incarceration has since made Ricky wise beyond his years.

In his hey day, Ricky oversaw an empire that spanned over numerous states and earned millions of dollars. The nickname “Freeway” came from Ross owning several properties along Los Angeles’ Harbor Freeway. His plan, now, is to return to society and accomplish that again, but this time through legal means.

According to his publicist, upon Ricky Ross’ release, he will focus on the following:

  • a book and a film (seeking deals for both)
  • a new record label in conjunction with industry legend Wendy Day
  • a foundation to help inner-city youth at risk
  • a reality TV show
  • his social networking site (

Ross currently has a film crew is following his release from prison and his trek across the country to a halfway house in California — where he will interact with, and impact youth in juvenile detention centers along the way.

His criminal past has previously become one of the most successful episodes of BET’s “American Gangster” series (first season). Now, he’s trying to move past his mistakes and into a positive future.