Known as “Black Caesar” in criminal circles, Frank Matthews came to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s moving heroin and then cocaine on the east coast. Matthews was born and raised in Durham, North Carolina on February 13, 1944. He turned out to be violent at an early age, doing time in a Raleigh juvenile hall.
Criminal Career and Disappearance
Afterwards, he would move on to Philadelphia where he became involved in numbers. The law caught up with him but he avoided prison time by leaving the city in 1963. Like many of his contemporaries of the time, Frank Matthews arrived in New York where he once again pursued the numbers game in addition to legit work as a barber.
As he remained in New York, Matthews delved further into the criminal world, taking on work as hired muscle. Bosses in the scene paid well at the time and Black Caesar was able to start his own drug enterprise via heroin. Before Frank Lucas established a trade connection within the Golden Triangle, anyone dealing heroin had to go through the Mafia. Matthews managed to speak with two major families but was unable to seal a deal to distribute.
His next option was Cuban cocaine boss Rolando Gonzales Nunez. He achieved this connection via his friendship with fellow numbers operator “Spanish Raymond” Marquez. The agreement saw Matthews establish an extremely profitable drug empire during the 1960s. He was able to cut his own slice in the city’s drug market but would become the target of the DEA a few years later.
Matthews was respected by many Black and Latino drug dealers as evidenced by the 1971 summit in Atlanta. Similar large mafia meetings, the summit was a discussion of changes in the New York drug trade that all attending dealers were receptive towards.
In 1973, Frank Matthews disappeared. Depending on who is telling the story, Matthews was either arrested and bailed out before fleeing with millions or he avoided the DEA entirely and fled with millions. What is known is that he hasn’t been seen in almost 45 years.