KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — The founder of a cocaine-smuggling gang blamed for about 1,400 slayings has died of illnesses at a Jamaica hospital, a year after returning to his native island following a prison term in the United States.
Vivian Blake, 53, died Sunday at University Hospital of the West Indies, where he had been admitted a day earlier after suffering a heart attack, according to attorney George Soutar. The lawyer said Blake also had kidney disease and had been receiving dialysis treatment.
In the days before his death, Blake was his "usual effervescent self" and had been working on a screenplay about the Shower Posse, the gang he founded in Brooklyn in the 1970s, Soutar told The Associated Press.
U.S. prosecutors alleged that the Shower Posse — the name came from their alleged practice of showering their enemies with bullets — was responsible for some 1,400 killings in several states during cocaine wars of the 1980s.
Authorities alleged that Blake, who was living in the Fort Lauderdale area at the time, was responsible for smuggling more than 1,000 tons of the drug into the United States.
Blake fled the U.S. in 1988 on a cruise ship and slipped back into his native Jamaica, where he spent five years in an eventually unsuccessful fight against extradition. He pleaded guilty in 2000 to racketeering, conspiracy and cocaine possession and admitted a leadership role in a gang. He received a 28-year sentence as part of a plea bargain.
He was released on parole after eight years and returned to Jamaica in January 2009. He had been apparently living quietly since then, though the Shower Posse gang remains active.
The U.S. has been seeking the extradition of the gang's current alleged leader, Christopher "Dudus" Coke, to face arms and drug trafficking charges in New York.
The government of Jamaica, where gangs have long enjoyed a degree of political protection for their ability to get out the vote in rough neighborhoods, has resisted the request, saying the U.S. has failed to provide sufficient evidence against him.
U.S. authorities allege that under Coke's leadership, Shower Posse members have sold marijuana and crack cocaine in the New York area and elsewhere and funneled profits back to him.
Blake's son, Duane Blake, is author of the 2003 book "The Shower Posse: The Most Notorious Jamaican Crime Organization." Vivian Blake's brother, Paul, was slain at his home in St. Andrew parish in November and no arrests have been made in the case.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.