life imprisonment after being convicted of trying to purchase more than 100 kilograms of cocaine from a federal agent. Ross became the subject of controversy later that year when a series of articles by journalist Gary Webb in the San Jose Mercury News brought to light a connection between one of Ross's cocaine sources, Danilo Blandon, and the CIA as part of the Iran-Contra scandal. The decision in Ross's case was brought to a federal court of appeals where his sentence was reduced to 20 years. His sentence has since been reduced further for being a model prisoner and he was moved to a halfway house in California in March 2009, and was released on September 29, 2009.
Early lifeRicky Ross was born on April 30, 1960 in Troup, Texas. As a young child he moved to South-Central Los Angeles, California, with his mother. Originally interested in tennis, he pursued a scholarship while attending high school. His coach, Bob Strohosky, who also later went into drug trafficking, eventually discovered that Ross was illiterate and had him removed from the school. Ross then attended Los Angeles Trade Technical College and again pursued tennis, reaching the third spot on the team. To make money, he turned to selling drugs to pay for tennis lessons. However, an arrest led Ross to quit school.
Cocaine introductionIt was through Jericho Deerr, a college friend, that Ross was introduced to cocaine. Through Deerr, Ross found a connection to purchase cheap Nicaraguan cocaine: two Nicaraguan exiles, Oscar Danilo Blandon and Norwin Meneses Cantarero. Ross began distributing the cocaine around US$10,000 less per kilo than the average street price, his point of distribution being the Bloods and Crips street gangs. Eventually, Ross purchased his cocaine directly from Blandón and Meneses. By 1982, Ross had received his moniker of "Freeway Ricky," and is believed to have been selling over US$3 million in cocaine per day—and purchasing 440 kilos of cocaine a week. In addition to cocaine, Ross was also able to purchase surveillance equipment, such as minicameras and recording equipment. Some of the gang members that worked for him bought weapons ranging from uzi submachine guns to semi-automatic pistols to fight rivals, and they also bought expensive jewelry and flashy cars.
Drug empireWith thousands of employees, Ross claimed he operated drug sales not only in Los Angeles but in places across the country including St. Louis, New Orleans, Texas, Kansas City, Oklahoma, Indiana, Cincinnati, North Carolina, South Carolina, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Seattle. He has said many times that his most lucrative sales came from the Ohio area. He made similar claims in a 1996 PBS interview.
Iran-Contra involvementRoss's capture was facilitated by his career-long dealer Oscar Danilo Blandón, who "set up" Ross. Blandón had close ties with the Contras, and had met with Contra leader Enrique Bermúdez on several occasions. Blandón was the link between the CIA and Contras during the Iran-Contra affair. Gary Webb interviewed Ross several times before breaking the story in 1996. Ross claims that the reason he was unfairly tried initially was because of his involvement in the scandal. Blandón received a 24-month sentence for his drug trafficking charges, and following his release, was hired by the Drug Enforcement Agency where he was salaried at US$42,000. Blandón was not a U.S. citizen/national, and is the only known foreigner not to be deported following conviction on drug trafficking charges in U.S. history. The INS was ordered to grant Blandón a green card, despite the criminal convictions, to allow him to work for the DEA. The DEA claims that they no longer employ Blandón, and his whereabouts are unknown.
MediaRoss was a key figure in filmmaker Kevin Booth's documentary American Drug War: The Last White Hope. The second episode of the first season of BET's American Gangster documentary series was focused on the story of Ricky Ross and his connection to the Iran-Contra scandal. While in Texarkana prison, Ricky Ross became the first federal inmate to create a social networking website. A new reality show currently in production will go along with Ricky Ross as he leaves prison and moves into a halfway house in California. The show will follow his attempt to regain his former fortune through legal means, while at the same time making amends with the community.
References in Hip Hop culture
- American rapper Rick Ross acquired his moniker from Ross, and rapper Freeway took his nickname from him.
- Ross is played by actor Glenn Plummer in the film, 100 Kilos.
References in Hip Hop lyrics
- In the song "My Favorite Mutiny" by The Coup, rapper Boots claims the Central Intelligence Agency directed Ross to distribute crack: "before the CIA told Ricky Ross to put crack in the sack."
- The song "Mathematics" by Mos Def contains a reference to the link between Ross and the CIA: "Nearly half of America's largest cities is one-quarter black/ That's why they gave Ricky Ross all the crack."
- The Game claimed, in his 2006 song "Ol' English," that he "Wanted to be Freeway Rick/He showed me how turn a stolen 5.0 into a brick.
- in the Style-C song titled "the 11th Hour", Freaks says "Don't Be Fooled By Obama/ He's Still Part Of The Head of The Monster/ We've All Just Been Fed Propoganda/ You Want Me To Blame Ricky Ross For The Contra?/"
- Young Buck mentions that "Freeway Ricky Ross be home in the March" in the song "Did You Miss Me".
- In the MURS song "The Science" (from his 2008 release Murs for President) the rapper says "...and they gave us dope (Crack)/From the CIA by the way of Nicaragua/Shipped to Rick Ross/He's the Black Godfather." He continues to rap about conspiracies surrounding the CIA's dealings with Ross throughout the song.
- UK hip hop artist Lowkey mentions both Ricky Ross and the American rapper who took his name as a moniker in a freestyle on London's KISS 100 radio show: "...find the real Rick Ross and ask him, the real Rick Ross, not the fat cop in fake glasses...", referencing an incident in which the American artist was accused by Louis Vuitton of wearing counterfeit sunglasses on the cover of XXL magazine, and reports of him being a former police officer.