American Gangster on BET hosted by Ving Rhames

Produced: A Smith
Running Time: 6 episodes 44 mins each

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American Gangster – Season 1 from BET (6 episodes)

Narrated by critically-acclaimed film star Ving Rhames, the show will explore without glorifying and investigate without celebrating, these criminal-minded personalities. In the course of each episode, their wrongdoing will be put in the context of Black history as we see how their actions both reflected and corrupted the values of their community.

Crime is a cancer that eats away at our communities," said Reginald Hudlin, BET President of Entertainment. "But for a generation that grew up thinking greed is good — whether on Wall Street or Martin Luther King Boulevard — they're not quite so sure whether crime pays or not. We wanted to take an honest look at the criminal life, demystify that world and show what it does to our community.

Executive produced by Nelson George and Frank Sinton (Asylum Entertainment), along with Mark Rowland and BET, the series will profile an infamous crime figure each week through the use of archival footage, photographs and interviews with people familiar with the various cases. Featured experts include ex-members of these polarizing criminals' organizations, police officials from the time period, attorneys that represented the criminals and crime historians.

Crime is an unfortunate part of African-American history and this series looks at its effects on us through the lives of some very infamous men," said executive producer George. "We picked figures whose crimes were legendary in their cities and had national, and in some cases, an international dimension. U.S. presidents play a key role in four of the six episodes, which shows you these criminals were not just purse snatchers. Having Ving on board, bringing his voice and persona to the show, enriches already great material.

STANLEY "TOOKIE" WILLIAMS (premieres Nov. 28, 2006)

At the time of his execution in 2005 some regarded Stanley 'Tookie' Williams as a martyr. The co-founder of the Crips, Tookie had been a big part of the negotiations to bring about a truce between L.A.'s two legendary gangs — the Crips and the Bloods. But before he turned that page, Williams had been convicted of the brutal murders of a convenience store clerk and three Korean family members. Williams, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee whose ashes were recently scattered in South Africa, was a complex man who worked with troubled youth, dabbled in PCP and founded a gang that continues to terrorize the black community nationwide.

RICKY ROSS (premieres Dec. 5, 2006)

Freway Ricky Ross |

'Freeway' Ricky Ross was the first crack king of Los Angeles, a hustler whose product fed the violent streets of his city. Ross didn't start out bad — he was a charming and athletic kid who was once an all-city tennis champ. But when his dreams of earning a tennis scholarship evaporated, Ross took to the streets and began to sell drugs. But his life was truly changed when he got involved with the '80s fastest growing product — crack cocaine. At the height of his career, Ross was selling $2 to $3 million of coke a day. Ross's dealings not only impacted the local community, but the international drug trade as well. This episode will chronicle Ross' rise and fall in narcotics distribution, as well as discuss his unwitting connection to the infamous Reagan-era CIA/Iran-Contras scandal.

LEROY "NICKY" BARNES (premieres Dec. 12, 2006)

leroy nicky barnes
Leroy "Nicky" Barnes is still name checked in rap records, despite having been out of the drug game since the late '70s. Known as Mr. Untouchable by Harlem residents and the police, Barnes was the first black heroin kingpin in history. Barnes was addicted to heroin in the 1950s and was arrested for drug possession into the '60s. After kicking the habit Barnes went on to organize the Council, a group of major black drug distributors modeled after the Mafia. Barnes was sentenced to life in prison in 1978 for drug trafficking, but got his sentence reduced to 35 years after testifying against 109 other dealers. He was released in 1998 after serving 21 years and is now in the Witness Protection Program. Once admired by many in the street, Barnes has become known as the most notorious snitch in African-American criminal history.

TROY & DINO SMITH (premieres Dec. 19, 2006)

troy and dino smith
In the wee hours of the morning on April 6, 2003, four men drilled a hole through the wall of a vacant restaurant in San Francisco's Union Square district that would eventually gain them entry into Lang Estate Jewelers. They spent the night there and when the store's employees arrived for work that morning, they were ambushed by the armed robbers.

After forcing the store's manager to open the safe, the crooks escaped with an estimated $6 million in jewels — the largest haul in San Francisco history. Among the four stick-up men pulling off this successful heist were brothers Troy and Dino Smith, a pair of career criminals who had padded police reports with a slew of robberies during the '80s. When they stole, they stole everything. They even robbed drug dealers. This episode will explore the Smiths' rise from teen crooks to architects of some of the most sophisticated crimes in Bay Area history.

THE CHAMBERS BROTHERS (premieres Dec. 26, 2006)

chamber brothers

Four brothers from Arkansas, the sons of sharecroppers, grew up to become some of the most notorious drug lords in America. In the 80s — Billy Joe, Willie, Larry and Otis Chambers — were running a crack enterprise that netted them more than $50 million a year in Detroit. Although crack houses were popular, the brothers considered them to be an organizational nightmare and created Marlowe's One Stop in a dilapidated apartment building. They were flying high until Larry's ego got the best of him and he began videotaping drug deals. His home movies were found during a raid of his home and the brothers were convicted in 1988.

LORENZO "FAT CAT" NICHOLS (premieres Jan. 2, 2007)

lorenzo nichols

It's one thing to sell drugs and get caught up in all of the violence surrounding that particular occupation. But it's quite another to kill a cop. That proved to be the undoing of Lorenzo "Fat Cat" Nichols, a Queens, N.Y. native who had gotten involved with the Seven Crowns gang as a young teen and who had already served five years in prison for armed robbery by the time he started dealing drugs at 22.

Although Nichols didn't pull the trigger that killed NYPD officer Edward Byrne in 1988, his organization was held accountable. Those gunshots were heard around the world and the ensuing backlash would ultimately affect drug trafficking nationwide. This story reveals what was really going down in Southeast Queens during the days when Fat Cats loomed large and lawlessness was rampant.

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