As a kid, Frank Matthews was adept at organizing. After dropping out of junior high school, as a young teen, he organized a gang of young “homeboys” to raid chicken coops in his native Durham, NC. He’d end up serving a year in jail after being convicted for stealing chickens. After his release, Matthews moved to Philadelphia where he became a barber.
He was arrested on numerous charges in 1963, but those charges ended up being dropped due to his employers’ influence. He moved to New York City, where he became a numbers runner in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. By 1965, he was a collector/enforcer, operating out of a local barbershop. At the end of 1966, Matthews was arrested on gambling charges but never had to go to trial.
Matthews tried to get backing from the Gambino family to get into the drug game, but they refused. He was then introduced to Roland Gonzalez, the biggest Cuban dealer in NYC. Gonzalez was getting ready to go on the run to Venezuela, but before he left, he sold one of his remaining kilos of 50% pure cocaine to Matthews for $20,000. From there, Matthews built an organization with his “homeboys” which set up shop in a dozen eastern and southern cities. Gonzalez remained his main supplier who provided Matthews with increasingly larger shipments at better prices.
After getting into the heroin game with Big El Bynum and the Corsicans in 1971, Matthews was arrested in 1973 in Durham after some of his cohorts cooperated with the government against him. He was freed on $325,000 bail and then disappeared with $20 million. Nobody knows what happened to Matthews. The authorities believe he is dead, but other believe he’s hiding and living well. It’s been said that he’d sneak into Durham wearing women’s clothes to visit his family.
Read more about Frank Matthews, Isaac Wright, Wayne Perry, Pistol Pete Rollack and others in Don Diva back issue #12 from 2002.