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

Published May 12, 2023
Updated May 15, 2023

A 1980s crack kingpin who later became a federal informant, Alpo Martinez was determined to fix his disgraced reputation in Harlem — until he was shot dead there in 2021.

Abraham Rodriguez lived in Lewiston, Maine. His neighbors considered him to be pleasant and approachable. He enjoyed riding dirt bikes with his friends. Nobody in Lewiston would have ever considered that people might want to see him dead — a lot of people, in fact. Nor did they suspect that Abraham Rodriguez was not his real name, or that he was one of Harlem’s most notorious crack cocaine dealers of the 1980s.

His real name was Alpo Martinez, and he was in witness protection. While Martinez certainly earned himself some enemies as a drug kingpin, he gained even more when he started ratting out fellow dealers to the police.

Alpo Martinez

Twitter Alpo Martinez was the self-professed “Mayor of Harlem” at the height of his drug dealing enterprise.

Unfortunately, it seemed that Martinez never truly escaped his past. So when news broke of his death in 2021 — when he was killed in a drive-by shooting — many speculated that he had been murdered by a scorned rival.

This is the double life of Alpo Martinez.

The Rise And Fall Of “The Mayor Of Harlem”

Born on June 8, 1966, Alpo Martinez got involved in the New York drug scene early — he was just 13 when he started selling drugs in East Harlem. The business proved to be fruitful, and Martinez later earned a reputation as a bombastic figure with a penchant for driving expensive cars and street bikes.

“He was an attention seeker and an adrenaline junkie,” Martinez’s former friend (and reformed cocaine dealer) Kevin Chiles said in an interview with The New York Times. “You have to figure, we were all young adults, teenagers, and we had more money than we knew what to do with.”

Despite being young, Martinez also proved himself to be brutal — and willing to kill his rivals. Usually, he hired hitmen to do the deed. But sometimes, Martinez would get his hands dirty too, like when he helped carry out the murder of his former partner and close friend Rich Porter in 1990 after he suspected that Porter had cut him out of important deals.

As Martinez later put it: “It wasn’t personal. It was business.”

Rich Porter

TwitterRich Porter and Alpo Martinez’s fateful partnership was famously dramatized in the 2002 film Paid In Full.

Porter’s killing marked the beginning of the end for Martinez. Less than a year later, he tried to expand his business to Washington, D.C., but he got arrested and soon found himself facing drug-trafficking charges.

It was then that Martinez was offered a deal: become a federal witness in exchange for a lessened sentence. Martinez took the deal and sold out friends and partners. He pleaded guilty to contracting seven murders, and his testimony effectively brought D.C.’s cocaine infrastructure to its knees.

Of course, betrayal isn’t taken lightly in the underground drug trade, and Martinez had a target on his back. So he was soon placed in the federal witness protection program and given a new name: Abraham Rodriguez.

Alpo Martinez’s Double Life After Prison

After Alpo Martinez was released from ADX Supermax federal prison in Florence, Colorado in 2015, he officially entered witness protection, according to New York Amsterdam News. He got a new ID card for his new name and was instructed to move to Lewiston, Maine, a small, low-key city.

At first, it seemed like Martinez was turning his life around. He moved into a new apartment where he was well-liked by his neighbors, got a job at Walmart, and even played basketball with local teenagers.

Just two years later, Martinez founded his own construction business. His crews — and other people he encountered in the area — never suspected that he had once been involved in countless violent drug deals.

Unfortunately, Martinez had trouble fully leaving his old life behind. Shortly after getting out of prison, he reached out to his old friend Chiles, wanting to explain why he had turned informant back in the early 1990s.

But it went beyond that, Chiles said. Martinez began coming back to Harlem, despite being warned about the dangers of going against his witness protection arrangement. “There were these sightings, almost like Bigfoot,” Chiles told The New York Times. “People would say that they’d seen him.”

Alpo Martinez As Abraham Rodriguez

TwitterNeighbors regarded “Abraham Rodriguez” as a nice, cordial man.

One of Martinez’s closest friends in Lewiston, Nik Pappaconstantine, believed that he had messed up the conditions of witness protection as early as 2018. Pappaconstantine said, “He would ride down to New York with somebody else. He was always worried about the government watching.”

But once Martinez arrived in New York, he seemed to be entirely unconcerned with laying low. At one point in 2019, he met up with director Troy Reed and showed him the street corner where he killed Rich Porter. On camera, he also talked about what committing the murder was like for him.

“It happened right here. At this light,” Alpo Martinez explained in the video. “I was very mad. I just killed a n**** that I loved, a n**** that I was getting money with, a n**** that I called my brother… and then I had to pick him up, and dump him in the woods, and leave his body.”

By 2020, Martinez was coming to Harlem so often that he was barely ever in Lewiston. He seemed determined to fix his reputation in his old stomping grounds, but his status as “The Mayor of Harlem” had long faded.

Then, on October 31, 2021, Martinez was killed.

Inside The Sudden Death Of Alpo Martinez

When news broke that 55-year-old Alpo Martinez had been shot and killed in Harlem, most assumed that his killer was a vengeful rival or old enemy trying to get even. Martinez’s past, it seemed, had come back to haunt him.

“I’m surprised he didn’t get killed sooner,” one Harlem resident told New York Amsterdam News. “He hurt a lot of people and they have sons and nephews who are now grown men. Perhaps someone from D.C.? Or a younger G lookin’ to get some stripes for outtin’ a rat.”

Meanwhile, Rich Porter’s niece said, “Every dog has their day and today was his. I believe in karma, and I’m glad that I was here to witness it.”

The truth, however, was much less movie-like.

As the New York Daily News reported, Martinez was killed because of his bad driving habits, not because he had ratted out a former business partner.

At some point during the summer of 2021, Martinez had apparently struck a man named Shakeem Parker with his motorcycle. Martinez reportedly had a bad habit of driving too close to pedestrians, but the incident allegedly angered Parker so much that he held onto the grudge for months.

Then, on Halloween around 3:20 a.m., Parker saw Martinez pass him by in a red Dodge Ram pickup truck. Seeing a moment of opportunity, Parker fired three shots into the truck’s driver’s side window, turned away, and then turned back and fired two additional shots. Martinez was ultimately hit in the arm and the chest — with one of the bullets hitting his heart.

Alpo Martinez's Death

TwitterThe crime scene of Alpo Martinez’s death.

In his last moments, an NYPD source told New York Daily News, Martinez was seen tossing bags of heroin out of the window.

“He leaves a string of heroin packages behind, a few feet apart, as if presumably he knows, ‘I’m shot, the cops are going to come, I don’t want to be caught with all that heroin,'” the source said.

When news reached Lewiston, most of Martinez’s former neighbors had no clue what to think. All they could remember was that he had been a generally pleasant guy, friendly with the kids in his neighborhood. For close friends like Nik Pappaconstantine, the news of Martinez’s death also served as news about who he really was, and it brought complex feelings.

“I want to sit here and say I know that he was fully genuine all the time,” Pappaconstantine said. “You take somebody you know unbelievably well, and then you read this thing and it doesn’t connect.”

Those who knew him in Harlem, though, seemed less surprised.

“He died almost like a comic book villain,” Chiles said. “He antagonized fate.”

After learning about the rise and fall of Alpo Martinez, read about the Harlem drug kingpin known as “Mr. Untouchable,” Leroy Nicky Barnes. Then, read the story of Freeway Rick Ross, the crack king of 1980s Los Angeles.

Austin Harvey
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Harvey, Austin. "The Brutal Life And Death Of Alpo Martinez, The New York Drug Lord Who Murdered His Own Partner.", May 12, 2023, Accessed May 22, 2024.