Alpo Martinez: Kingpin, Informant, and ‘Mayor’ of Harlem

During the 1980s, Harlem became the epicenter of the crack cocaine epidemic. The neighborhood became synonymous with drugs, crime, and gangs.

The area became largely neglected by the police and the drug lords ruled the streets. The historic brownstones constructed in the late 19th century were transformed into drug dens and crack houses.

It was during this setting that Alpo Martinez rose to prominence as the self-proclaimed “Mayor of Harlem”. Taking advantage of the opportunities he had access to, Martinez became one of the most notorious drug lords in New York City.

After being arrested in 1991, Martinez became a police informant and helped authorities bring down several of Martinez’s former colleagues. In this article we will explore the life of Alpo Martinez – his rise, fall, and how he met his untimely end.

Alpo Martinez. Picture from Alpo Official Instagram account

Childhood and Formative Years

Alberto “Alpo” Martinez was born on June 8, 1966, in East Harlem, New York City. His childhood was shaped by the streets, marked by poverty and the allure of the drug trade.

Martinez, like many young men in his neighborhood growing up in the 70s and 80s, was drawn into the streets at an early age. The allure of quick money and the influence and lifestyles of the older drug dealers caused Martinez to start selling drugs at the young age of 13. 

Rise to Power

Alongside his partners Azie Faison and Rich Porter, Martinez capitalized on the soaring demand for crack cocaine. He operated a formidable drug operation that wielded influence and control over Harlem.

Known for his street smarts, business acumen, and an understanding of the dynamics within the criminal underworld, Martinez ruled his drug empire with a ruthless determination. This allowed him to rise above his competition.

A 1986 photograph of Harlem, New York-based drug dealer Alpo Martinez.

It is believed that disagreements over money, trust issues, and territorial control led to increasing tensions between Porter and Martinez. The breaking point reportedly occurred when Martinez felt that Porter was becoming a liability to the operation.

This was possibly due to suspicions of disloyalty or concerns about law enforcement. In an act of betrayal and violence, Alpo Martinez is said to have lured Rich Porter into a false sense of security before fatally shooting him in 1990. 

Expansion into Washington D.C. and Arrest

As with all drug lords, they eventually want more. With pressures from rival gangs and the police breathing down his neck, Alpo Martinez envisioned his business expanding beyond the confines of Harlem. He set his sights on Washington D.C. ambition extended beyond the confines of Harlem

Washington, D.C., in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was grappling with its own drug epidemic, providing an opportunity for someone like Martinez to exploit. The expansion into a new market allowed him to diversify his operations and tap into a different demographic of drug users. 

What Martinez didn’t know was that there were already multiple investigations into his criminal activity going on. It wasn’t long after he expanded into Washington D.C. that he was arrested and faced charges related to drug trafficking along with 14 counts of murder.

Alpo Martinez on his motorcycle. Picture from Nik Pappaconstantine

Drug Lord Turned Informant

After his arrest, Alpo Martinez was facing a laundry list of charges. Worst case scenario he would face the death penalty.

The best case would be life in prison with no chance of parole. Either way, Martinez was looking at the end of his life.

But then the authorities offered him a third option. They told him that he could become a confidential informant and turn on all his friends in exchange for a 35-year sentence. Martinez took the offer.

Martinez began giving police all the names he knew. He ratted out his former bodyguard and enforcer Wayne ‘Silk’ Perry who was charged with five consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole. His testimonies of other drug kingpins significantly crippled the cocaine trade in Washington D.C. 

Witness Protection

In 2015, after serving almost 25 years of his sentence, Martinez was released from ADX Supermax federal prison in Florence, Colorado. He entered the witness protection program where he received a new identity.

They gave him a new ID card reflecting his new name; Abraham G. Rodriquez. Authorities instructed him to relocate to Lewiston, Maine where he could start to build his new life. 

While in Maine, Martinez started his own construction company and made a whole new batch of friends. No one was aware of his past life and it seemed that he had left all that behind him.

But then he started making regular trips back to Harlem, risking blowing his cover every time he went. What he was doing while he was there is anyone’s guess but something was drawing him back to his old stomping grounds. 

Death and Legacy

On October 31, 2021, Alpo Martinez was shot and killed in Harlem on one of his visits. Many people thought it was obvious that someone from his former gang had killed him in retaliation for him snitching.

There was no shortage of people that wanted to see Martinez killed but the facts are a lot less dramatic. It turned out that he was not shot by a former member of his gang or even a rival gang.

He had upset the wrong person during a road rage incident and was shot multiple times in the arm and chest. As he tried to drive away, he reportedly dumped bags of heroin out of his window.

He finally succumbed to his injuries and crashed into another car. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Even though Martinez got a great deal considering his crimes and was able to start a new life with a clean slate, the allure of the streets was too strong to resist. Even after serving 25 years in prison, it wasn’t enough for him to completely turn his life around.

Back in Maine, the people that knew him were shocked – The Abraham Rodriquez they knew would never do something like that. 

Martinez’s life story has been the subject of various books, articles, and documentaries. His criminal exploits, betrayal, and eventual cooperation have been loosely dramatized in the movie “Paid in Full” (2002).

His life stands as a reminder that we are all the product of the environment we grow up in and the times in which we grow up. 


The Brutal Life And Death Of Alpo Martinez, The New York Drug Lord Who Murdered His Own Partner

Disgraced drug kingpin ‘Alpo’ Martinez murdered in Harlem

Alpo Martinez

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