"Freeway" Rick Ross
May 3, 1960 |
Troup, Texas, U.S.
|Other names||Freeway, The Real Rick Ross|
|Conspiracy to illegally traffic cocaine (100kg)|
|Life, commuted to 30 years by a U.S. Federal Court Of Appeals|
|Incarcerated in 1996, released in 2009|
|Parents||Annie Mae Ross, Sonny Ross|
Ricky Donnell Ross (born May 3, 1960), also known as "Freeway" Rick Ross, is an American convicted drug trafficker best known for the drug empire he presided over in Los Angeles, California, in the early to mid 1980s.
The nickname "Freeway" came from Ross' ownership of several properties along the Los Angeles-area Harbor Freeway as well as the existence of a freeway near his childhood home. According to an Esquire magazine October 2013 article titled "Say Hello to Rick Ross," "Between 1982 and 1989, federal prosecutors estimated, Ross bought and resold several metric tons of cocaine. In 1980 dollars, his gross earnings were said to be in excess of $900 million – with a profit of nearly $300 million. Converted roughly to present-day dollars: 2.5 billion gross, and $850 million in profit, respectively.” During the height of his drug dealing, Ross claims to have sold "$3 million in one day." According to the Oakland Tribune, "In the course of his rise, prosecutors estimate that Ross exported several tons of cocaine to New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, and made more than $600 million in the process between 1983 and 1984."
In 1996, Ross was sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of trying to purchase more than 100 kilograms of cocaine from a federal agent. Later that year, 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 Blandón, 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 was then reduced further due to being a model prisoner, and he was moved to a halfway house in California in March 2009. Ross was released from prison on September 29, 2009.
Cocaine use and business
It was through a friend that Ross was introduced to a connection to purchase cheap Nicaraguan cocaine: two Nicaraguan exiles, Oscar Danilo Blandón and Norwin Meneses Cantarero. Ross began distributing 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 claimed to have been selling up to US$3 million worth of cocaine per day – and purchasing 455 kilos of cocaine a week.
With 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 that his most lucrative sales came from the Ohio area. He made similar claims in a 1996 PBS interview. According to the Oakland Tribune, "In the course of his rise, prosecutors estimate that Ross exported several tons of cocaine to New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, and made more than $600 million in the process." Adjusting for inflation using the Consumer Price Index, that is more than a billion dollars.
According to Esquire Magazine October 2013 Issue – Say Hello to Rick Ross: “Between 1982 and 1989, federal prosecutors estimated, Ross bought and resold several metric tons of cocaine. In 1980 dollars, his gross earnings were said to be in excess of $900 million – with a profit of nearly $300 million. Converted roughly to present-day dollars: 2.5 billion gross, and $850 million in profit, respectively. As his distribution empire grew to include forty-two cities, the price he paid per kilo of powder cocaine dropped from as much as $60,000 to as low as $10,000. ” 
Ross'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 Administration 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 has claimed they no longer employ Blandón, and his whereabouts are unknown.
Lawsuit against rapper Rick Ross
On June 18, 2010, Ross sued rapper Rick Ross (real name William L. Roberts) for using his name. Freeway Ricky Ross filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Ross in a California Federal Court. Jay-Z had been called to testify in the lawsuit, as he was CEO of Def Jam when Ross was signed to the label. The reformed drug kingpin was looking for $10 million in compensation in the lawsuit.
Also, the release of rapper Rick Ross' album, Teflon Don, was threatened to be blocked by Freeway Ricky Ross. A week after the lawsuit was filed, the rapper responded to the charges: "It’s like owning a restaurant; you’re gonna have a few slip and falls. You get lawsuits, you deal with them, and get them out of your way ... sometimes you lose." He then denied rumors that he would change his name to "Ricky Rozay" as a consequence of the lawsuit.
After the lawsuit was dismissed on July 3, 2010, the album Teflon Don was released as scheduled on July 20, 2010. A federal judge ruled that the case should be refiled in California state court because it fell under California state law. Ross refiled the case with the State of California and the federal case is on appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The federal case was appealed to higher court, state case was filed in 2011 in California.
Freeway Ross has refiled in Los Angeles Superior Court with publicity rights claims. Depositions have been ongoing. Trial was set for early May 2012. The case was dismissed by a judge in the Los Angeles Superior Court.
The California State case was updated with a motion in Freeway Rick Ross's favor as to Warner Brothers Records and their use of the name and image Rick Ross in July 2012.
The New York Post reported that a trial was set for August 27, 2013 in Freeway Rick Ross versus Rick Ross and Warner Music Group.
On December 30, 2013, the court ruled in favor of the rapper Rick Ross, allowing him to keep the name based on a First Amendment ruling.
In popular culture
Ross 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. Ross is played by actor Glenn Plummer in the film, 100 Kilos. Ross was recently featured in VH1's critically acclaimed Planet Rock History of Crack and Hip Hop Documentary. The documentary was a look into the interconnection between top hip hop talents such as Jay Z, Snoop and Wu Tang and the growth of the Crack Epidemic. Ross was an integral part of the show, along with the prior listed talents. Ross is featured in the 2013 documentary How To Make Money Selling Drugs, which details the various levels of the drug trade as well as law enforcement's involvement.
Ross was featured in a multipage article detailing his rise, fall and redemption in the 80th Anniversary Esquire Magazine. Title "Say Hello to Rick Ross" – "Crack was just turning up in the United States. The contras were seeking funds to support their civil war in Nicaragua. And an L.A. kid was looking for an opportunity. The combination would change America." 
Rapper Jay-Z referenced Ross's story in the song Blue Magic from the American Gangster soundtrack. "Can't you tell that I came from the dope game, Blame Reagan for makin' me into a monster,...Blame Oliver North and Iran-contra/ I ran contraband that they sponsored." Blue Magic American Gangster (film) Soundtrack
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." 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.
- "Ricky Ross Biography – Facts, Birthday, Life Story". Biography.com. 1960-01-26. Retrieved 2013-07-02.
- "United States Department of Justice Archive". Usdoj.gov. Retrieved 2013-07-02.
- "Dark Alliance: Library." (Archive) San Jose Mercury News. April 9, 1997. Retrieved on December 14, 2013. "A few years before Rick Ross got involved with cocaine, he wielded a racquet for his high school tennis team. A college scholarship fizzled when it was learned that he couldn't read. Photo from Dorsey High School yearbook"
- Webb, Gary (August 19, 1996). "Shadowy origins of 'crack' epidemic". San Jose Mercury News. Archived from the original on April 9, 1997.
- By Mike Sager Esquire Magazine (2013-09-13). "Say Hello to Rick Ross". Esquire Magazine. Retrieved 2013-09-13.
- Whiteout: The Cia, Drugs and the Press by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, Verso Publishing. Page 6,7
- By Scott JohnsonOakland Tribune (2012-04-17). "Oakland Tribune". Insidebayarea.com. Retrieved 2013-07-02.
- "NBC: Drugs and the CIA, YouTube".
- "Federal Bureau of Prisons". Bop.gov. Retrieved 2013-07-02.
- "CPI Calculator". Usinflationcalculator.com. Retrieved 2013-07-02.
- "American Gangster: 'Freeway' Ricky Ross". BET. Archived from the original on July 9, 2007.
- Harling, Danielle. "Freeway Rick Ross files lawsuit". Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- Strong, Nolan; Bostick, Octavia. "Rapper Rick Ross Gets Legal Victory, Replies To $10 Mil Lawsuit". Retrieved 2010-09-12.
- The Drug Dealer Rick Ross Has Lost His Lawsuit Against the Rapper Rick Ross. New York Magazine. November 5, 2010.
- Johnson, Bill. "Freeway Ricky Ross’ Lawsuit Against Rick Ross Thrown Out". Retrieved 12 September 2010.
- "'Freeway' Rick Ross Will Take On Rick Ross In Court Early May".
- Gardner, Eriq (2012-07-18). "Rick Ross Vs. Ricky "Freeway" Ross: Judge Rejects Warner Bros. Records' Motion to Dismiss Read more at http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/industry/legal-and-management/rick-ross-vs-ricky-freeway-ross-judge-rejects-1007617352.story#3W6boIh6PTfP2KCK.99". The Hollywood Reporter.
- "Rick Ross vs. Rick Ross: Rapper sued by drug trafficker for allegedly stealing name NY POST". New York Post.
- Gardner, Eriq (2013-12-30). "'Freeway' Ricky Ross vs. Rick Ross: First Amendment Protects Hip-Hop Persona". The Hollywood Reporter.
- 100 Kilos (2001) at the Internet Movie Database
- "VH1 Planet Rock History of Crack and Hip Hop". Billboard.com. Retrieved 2013-07-02.
- "My Favorite Mutiny lyrics". The Original Hip-Hop Lyrics Archive. Retrieved 2008-03-15.
- "Mathematics lyrics". The Original Hip-Hop Lyrics Archive. Retrieved 2008-05-19.
- "Rick Ross, Former Drug Kingpin: 'Why Wouldn't You Want To Emulate Me If You Can't Even Get a Job At McDonald's?". Huffington Post. 2013-08-07.
- Freewayrick.com Rick Ross's Home Page
- Freewayenterprise.com Rick Ross's Social Media Site
- Jimmy DaSaint and Freeway Ricky Ross's Book Black Scarface
- AmericanDrugWar.com AmericanDrugWar.com
- Profile on the show American Gangster
- Freeway Ricky Ross Timeline – November 2, 2006 Streetgangs.com
- Parry, Robert. "How John Kerry exposed the Contra-cocaine scandal." Salon. October 25, 2004.
- Interview with Vocalo.org
- Interview with latalkradio.com
- Interview with Freeway Ricky Ross by Dominic Streatfeild
- "Freeway" Rick Ross at the Internet Movie Database