Former L.A. cocaine kingpin ‘Freeway’ Ricky Ross arrested in Sonoma County

Ricky Ross arrested

“Freeway” Ricky Ross during a jailhouse interview at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in San Diego in October 1996.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Former Los Angeles crack cocaine kingpin “Freeway” Ricky Ross was arrested this week in Sonoma County on suspicion of possessing money related to the sale of a controlled substance, authorities said.

A law enforcement official told the Los Angeles Times that Ross was carrying more than $100,000.

Ross, who authorities say was a major player in the crack trade in South Los Angeles in the 1990s, was also arrested on suspicion of conspiring to commit a crime, according to a Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office arrest log. He is no longer in custody, according to Sonoma County sheriff’s jail records.

Ross’ management team did not immediately return requests for a comment.


Lt. Darin Dougherty, a spokesman with the sheriff’s office, confirmed Ross was arrested, but said details about his arrest were not immediately available due to an ongoing investigation.

Ross was convicted in 1996 of conspiring to buy more than 100 kilograms of cocaine from a police informant and, based on two prior drug convictions in Texas and Ohio, sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. But his sentence was reduced in 2005 from 20 to 16 1/2 years. He was released in 2009.

After his release, Ross went on speaking tours and talked to young people about his life in the drug trade. Ross sued rapper Rick Ross, born William Leonard Roberts, a former corrections officer, over his name, claiming the artist used his name to fuel his fame and profit.

But a California appeals court judge ruled Roberts’ alias and image are protected speech. 


Ross’ life and the lawsuit were documented this year in the film “Freeway: Crack in the System.”

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He was portrayed last year in the movie “Kill the Messenger” about journalist Gary Webb, whose 1996 series for the San Jose Mercury News dealt with the link between the CIA, Central American drug dealers, the anti-communist Contras in Nicaragua and cocaine sales in the U.S.

Marijuana distributors traveling from Southern California and the Bay Area to the Emerald Triangle (Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties) call the area along the 101 Freeway where Ross was pulled over “the Gauntlet” because of the high risk of being pulled over by law enforcement looking for drugs and cash.

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