The story of the Supreme Team, a Black drug trafficking organisation that operated in the Jamaica, Queens neighbourhood of New York City in the 1980s and 1990s begins with the story of Howard “Pappy” Mason and Lorenzo “Fat Cat” Nichols.
The Supreme Team was responsible for a significant portion of the crack cocaine that flooded the streets of New York City during the crack epidemic of the 1980s.
The Supreme Team was feared and respected in the New York underworld while Mason and Nichols’ massive drug trafficking operation generated millions of dollars in profits each year.
Fat Cat and Nichols controlled a vast network of drug dealers and enforcers, and their power extended far beyond the borders of Queens.
However, the reign of Pappy Mason and Fat Cat Nichols came to an end with the murder of 22 year old Police officer, Edward Byrne.
From behind bars on gun charges, Mason ordered the 1988 murder of Byrne, who was assigned to protect the witness in a drug case against Mason. This audacious crime shocked New York City, and led to increased law enforcement attention on Mason and Nichols.
A month after the killing of Edward Byrne, Mason was sentenced to seven years in prison on gun charges.
The federal government continued to investigate Mason for the Byrne killing. On December 11, 1989, Mason was convicted on federal charges including the murder of Officer Byrne.
After four years of legal wrangling, including questions of Mason’s mental competency, he was given a life sentence in 1994.
Mason began serving his life sentence at ADX Florence supermax facility, in Florence, Colorado and was subsequently transferred around 2015 to USP Allenwood.
The murder of Edward Byrne not only led to the downfall of Mason but also marked the beginning of the end for Fat Cat Nichols.
Law enforcement agencies increased their efforts to take down the Supreme Team, and Nichols was eventually arrested in 1993 and charged with a series of drug-related crimes.
While awaiting trial in jail, he was murdered by a fellow inmate, allegedly in retaliation for a gang-related killing that Nichols had ordered.
Mason and Nichols’ downfall marked the end of an era in New York City’s criminal underworld. The power of the Supreme Team waned and many of its members including Kenneth Supreme McGriff were arrested and imprisoned.
However, the Pappy Mason and Fat Cat Nichols era impacted New York City significantly and is still felt today with references being made by Rappers like Nas to the Pappy Mason and Fat Cat Nichols era.