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Hello and welcome to The Rob Burgess Show. I am, of course, your host, Rob Burgess.
On this, our 40th episode, our guest is “Freeway” Rick Ross.
I should say at this point, if you haven’t heard it yet, go back and listen to Episode 25 with guest Marc Levin. This episode will make much more sense if you do so.
I first interviewed Marc, and the subject of his documentary, “Freeway: Crack in the System,” “Freeway” Rick Ross, last year. The film premiered on Al Jazeera America and I was lucky enough to screen the film prior to its release. Here's the movie's trailer:
I first became aware of the story of “Freeway” Rick Ross in 2008 when it was revealed that not only was the rapper calling himself Rick Ross was actually named William Roberts, but Roberts had also been a correctional officer in Florida. I then went on to read the late Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gary Webb's seminal series, “Dark Alliance,” in which he connected the dots between Ross, who was being supplied with cocaine by Nicaraguans raising money for the Central Intelligence Agency -backed Contras through drug sales. (Webb's story was also told the Jeremy Renner-starring dramatic film “Kill the Messenger,” based on the book of the same name.) July 21, Levin's film, was nominated for an Emmy award in the Outstanding Investigative Journalism: Long Form category.
According to the Oakland Tribune, “In the course of his rise, prosecutors estimate that Ross exported several tons of cocaine nationally, and made more than $600 million in the process. Counting inflation its $1.6 billion comparing 1986 to 2010.” Now, he has applied the passion that helped him build an empire to helping the youth, Ross has been given a second chance to uplift his community by giving back through mentoring and sharing his story. He plans to inspire many of today’s youths to achieve their greatest successes without following in his footsteps.
Recognized as a pawn in the CIA drug game, Ross was a pioneer in the crack cocaine trade in Los Angeles, as well as other parts of the U.S. A renowned drug dealer, Ross harvested millions as an unknowing participant of CIA and Drug Enforcement Agency operatives, who provided him with unlimited amounts of cocaine.
As a youth, Ross moved to South Central Los Angeles with his mother with the intent of playing tennis. He pursued a scholarship while attending high school. Unfortunately, his coach would later find out he was illiterate and removed him from the school. Ross then attended Los Angeles Trade Technical College and again pursued tennis, reaching the third spot on the team. Shortly after, at the early age of 19, Ross said a teacher, who taught at a job center, turned him on to cocaine. Because he looked up to him, Ross started selling cocaine for him. The money was good so he ended up starting his own business. His operation grew and he soon became one of the biggest cocaine dealers in South Central.
During the height of his drug dealing, Ross was said to have made $2 million to $3 million a week. In 1996, he was sentenced to 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 Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series 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 his case was brought to a federal court of appeals where his sentence was reduced to 20 years and then reduced further for being a model inmate. He was then moved to a halfway house in California in the spring of 2009 where he was released on Sept. 29, 2009.
And now, onto the show: