Roberts is recognized for his role in the investigation, arrest, and prosecution of Harlem "drug kingpin" Frank Lucas, who operated a heroin smuggling and distribution ring in the New York City neighborhood. In addition to bringing down Lucas's operation, Roberts's investigation also uncovered police corruption connected with the drug trade.  Lucas's criminal enterprise and the investigation by Roberts was the subject of the 2007 film American Gangster, starring actor Denzel Washington (as Lucas) and Australian actor Russell Crowe (as Roberts). After Lucas was incarcerated, Roberts entered private practice as an attorney specializing in criminal defense, and was retained by Lucas as defense counsel.
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