LEWISTON — The Mainer who was among the closest friends of Alberto Geddis “Alpo” Martinez said that while the former drug kingpin maintained the new identity given him by the federal witness protection program, he was never really hiding out in the Pine Tree State.

Alberto “Alpo” Martinez, who had lived in Lewiston under the federal witness protection program, sent this photograph of himself in a Rolls Royce in Atlanta to a friend in Maine earlier this year. The former drug kingpin was murdered on Halloween in New York City. Submitted photo

Martinez, who was murdered on Halloween in New York City, traveled widely, hung out with rappers and hip-hop producers, drove fancy cars, frequently cozied up to fashionable women from afar, visited his old haunts in Harlem regularly and was writing his autobiography.

“He was literally out partying all the time,” said Nik Pappaconstantine, a Portland software engineer who met the man he knew as Abraham Rodriquez soon after the New York City native got out of a supermax federal prison in Colorado and slipped into Maine with a new government-created identity.

For six years, the two worked, traveled and played together across the state and the region, from the VIP sections of Boston nightclubs to dirt bike trails in the Maine woods.

Pappaconstantine said he wants people to see the man he knew even as he grapples with the difficult reality that the generous, fun-loving fellow he hung with was once accused of at least 14 murders during his reign as one of the leading drug kingpins peddling crack cocaine from the Big Apple to the nation’s capital.

Nik Pappaconstantine was a friend of Alberto “Alpo” Martinez since his first days in Maine in 2015. Submitted photo

Martinez, despite the low profile he kept in his College Street apartment, was a legendary crack trafficker who “gained urban folklore status” in the 1980s and 1990s, by unleashing “much death and destruction” and helped turn Harlem “into the dilapidated community it became several decades ago,” as the New York Amsterdam News, one of the most influential African-American newspapers, put it the other day.

“I have such a hard time putting the two together,” Pappaconstantine said last week after several sleepless nights pondering the strange connection he had with Martinez, a legend who’s been featured in song and film, but who was also just his pal Abraham, a hardworking construction guy with a sparse apartment in Lewiston.

Martinez, 55, cut a deal with federal prosecutors in the early 1990s, after the FBI caught up with him following a two-year search. In return for giving federal agents the goods on a major dealer in Washington, D.C., Martinez got 35 years in prison, sparing him a possible death sentence.

When he got out in 2015, the federal government kept its share of the deal by handing Martinez a new identity that could have allowed him to live out his life quietly, far from the mean streets where his enemies lurked.

But Martinez never seemed as worried as the government did.

TELLING HIS SECRET

Shortly before Martinez moved out of Maine last month, he phoned the first friend he ever made in the Pine Tree State to tell him they needed to talk.

Pappaconstantine soon found himself sitting in the Lewiston living room of the man he’d known for six years as Abraham Rodriquez.

Pappaconstantine said his friend told him to take out his phone and type in Alpo Martinez.

When he did, Pappaconstantine immediately saw a flood of links to tales of a drug kingpin who’d murdered people, spent almost a quarter-century behind bars, gained a reputation as a notorious snitch and frolicked with the glitterati of the hip-hop world.

“This is who I am,” Martinez told Pappaconstantine.

“Abraham, I appreciate that,” Pappaconstantine responded. “It’s a lot to take in.”

Pappaconstantine told his friend they’d grown up in different worlds, something they long ago recognized and came to appreciate, and what mattered to him was “that’s not who you are today.”

Four years ago, Alberto “Alpo”  Martinez bought this 2017 Ram from the lot at Lee Auto Malls in Auburn. He was driving it on Halloween when somebody gunned him down in Harlem. Submitted photo

But when he learned that Martinez had been gunned down outside a Harlem nightclub on Halloween, driving a truck Pappaconstantine helped him buy in Auburn, the two lives his friend had lived came together in a burst of still-unexplained violence.

Pappaconstantine said he recognized from the start that Martinez was no ordinary fellow. He didn’t know a lot of things he should have, from banking to technology, and he always had plenty of cash. That he sometimes got unusual celebrity treatment when the two traveled didn’t escape his friend either.

But Martinez was fun, friendly and kind, Pappaconstantine said, and the two grew close.

SO A GUY GOES INTO A BANK AND . . .

In 2015, Pappaconstantine worked for a bank in Portland. He was 24 years old.

A guy walked in who was “incredibly outgoing” and “very, very nice,” seeking to open the first account of his life at the age of 49.

“I was surprised he’d been alive for so long and never had a bank account,” Pappaconstantine said.

He recalled that Martinez told him, “I never needed one.”

Pappaconstantine helped Abraham Rodriquez – spelled with a Q, not a G as most stories have said, he added – fill out the paperwork, including his Social Security number and other facts that he now realizes were made up for the federal witness protection program. At the time, though, he had no idea there was anything fishy about any of it.

Martinez told him he was new to the state and trying to make some friends.

Since the newcomer seemed “really charismatic” and cool, Pappaconstantine agreed to meet that night to play pool in the Old Port section of Portland.

Martinez, living in an extended-stay hotel in South Portland, didn’t show up until 20 minutes before the bar’s 1 a.m. closing time, he said, but brushed off a suggestion that it was late.

“No, no, this is when the party starts,” Martinez told his new banker.

Martinez then scanned the room for the most beautiful women present, Pappaconstantine said, and immediately began talking them up.

“He’d always succeed, 100% of the time,” Pappaconstantine said. “They’d immediately fall for him.”

Pappaconstantine said he saw it repeatedly for years.

Martinez would tell the women what he wanted from them, “so straightforward, so blunt” and he’d tell them, too, that he had no interest in a relationship and no intention of having any sort of exclusive arrangement.

Pappaconstantine said he always felt like if he’d tried the same thing, he’d have gotten slapped.

But, he said, Martinez had a way of charming women.

HOW DID MARTINEZ WIND UP IN LEWISTON?

Former Lewiston Mayor Kaileigh Tara, who lived upstairs from Martinez, wondered last week, “Why did they pick Lewiston, Maine, of all places?”

It turns out the witness protection program had nothing to do with it.

Alberto “Alpo” Martinez, a former drug kingpin from New York City, lived in the rear apartment on the first floor of 169 College St. in Lewiston from 2015 until about October. Steve Collins/Sun Journal

The program appears to have supplied Martinez with a new identity and turned him loose in Maine to forge a new life. Neither Pappaconstantine nor Martinez’s neighbors in Lewiston ever saw any sign that federal agents were involved with his ongoing life.

Pappaconstantine said that early on, Martinez asked him for help figuring out where he should live.

He said Martinez quizzed him about “crime rates and stuff like that,” not wanting to land somewhere that might not be safe.

“I told him, ‘It’s Maine and you don’t have to worry,’” Pappaconstantine said.

Only recently did he realize that perhaps his friend wanted to avoid running across figures from his past.

In any case, Martinez found a “really cheap” three-bedroom, first-floor apartment at 169 College St. in Lewiston, his friend said, and grabbed it.

He said Martinez liked the location and the neighbors, plus all the parking available nearby for the many vehicles he had. A side benefit, Pappaconstantine said, were “all the ladies that he met around there.”

All in all, he said, Lewiston proved “easy and convenient for him” so he stayed there for six years.

Nothing much ever happened in the neighborhood.

“The most I ever see around here is drunk college kids,” said neighbor Lance Brown, referring to students from nearby Bates College.

WHY MARTINEZ LEFT MAINE

Pappaconstantine said Martinez hadn’t really been hiding in Maine.

Former drug kingpin Alberto “Alpo” Martinez of New York City sent images of himself about to jump from a yacht into the ocean to a friend in Maine. Submitted photo

He often traveled to New York, Boston and other locales, hanging out with old friends that Pappaconstantine only recently realized were producers, rappers and other major players in the hip-hop world.

Pappaconstantine sometimes went with him, meeting people in the VIP sections of nightclubs that Martinez waltzed into easily, telling his Maine buddy, “I know somebody” to explain it.

“Being from Maine, I had no idea,” Pappaconstantine said.

He said he figured they were just folks Martinez had crossed paths with somewhere. He’d seen it happen often with folks in Lewiston and Portland, so he didn’t think a whole lot about it when they were elsewhere together.

“He made all these connections constantly,” Pappaconstantine said.

When Martinez’s mother and sister both got cancer a couple of years ago, his desire to visit them regularly began drawing him back to New York City more and more frequently.

Pappaconstantine said that when his friend’s mother was dying, Martinez would fly back every other weekend to spend time with her.

When she died in 2020, he said, that “completely crushed him” and “put him in a really dark, sad place.”

Losing both his mother and his sister in quick succession, he said, seemed to inspire Martinez to try harder to spend time with other family members, including his children. They lived in New York, Pappaconstantine said.

“That really changed him,” Pappaconstantine said. He said it was like Martinez decided he’d had enough of missing out on so much of his family’s life.

Martinez decided this year to move to New Jersey, Pappaconstantine said, and began going there more and more. He finally packed up a U-Haul about four weeks ago and left Lewiston, though he’d planned to return this month to ride his motorcycle in Maine.

Pappaconstantine said Martinez clearly kept a lower profile by living in Maine but “he was never hiding.”

Even so, he said, Martinez must have known “he was in danger going down there” permanently. It was obviously a risk he was willing to run.

Perhaps Martinez was thinking about the course of his life.

Pappaconstantine said that before his friend drove off in his U-Haul, quitting Maine, Martinez took his picture, telling him he might need it for the autobiography he was writing.

On Alberto “Alpo” Martinez’s last day in Lewiston, where he lived for years under the federal witness protection program, a friend snapped a photograph of the U-Haul the former drug kingpin from New York City rented to bring his belongings to a new home in New Jersey. Submitted photo

WORKING IN MAINE

For a guy who grew rich and powerful selling cocaine, Martinez never had any use for drugs in his own personal life, Pappaconstantine said.

He said Martinez never drank and never took drugs. He wouldn’t even touch a gun, Pappaconstantine said, which was odd in Maine.

Martinez worked hard as well, putting in long hours working for a Pepsi distributor and at a Walmart distribution center in Lewiston for a year or two before shifting into the construction business. Pappaconstantine said he still has the hat that Martinez wore to work for Pepsi.

But then he formed his own company, which lasted only a year, cleaning out construction debris to get things spruced up before painters came in on major projects. He kept doing that work until this year, taking pride in never missing a deadline, Pappaconstantine said.

Martinez had a commercial driver’s license and sometimes drove the big 18-wheeler trucks, too.

One time, Pappaconstantine said, they went together on a long trip. Martinez got tired behind the wheel so they pulled over, parking in a strip mall by a T.J. Maxx in Massachusetts to catch some winks before morning.

By the time they woke up, the lot was filling with cars, blocking in the truck somewhat. Pappaconstantine said they spent a long while maneuvering the truck through an obstacle course to reach a different exit and get back on the road.

Martinez was looking at other business opportunities as well.

Pappaconstantine said Martinez had talked with lawyers to find out if he could get into medical marijuana business legally without violating any conditions of his deal with the government. He said Martinez was told he could.

That might have happened, Constantine said, except that his friend never got the chance to proceed with the idea.

Alberto “Alpo” Martinez’s 2017 Dodge pickup is parked outside his College Street apartment in Lewiston. He was behind the wheel when he was gunned down in Harlem on Halloween. Submitted photo

HAVING FUN IN MAINE

Pappaconstantine said Martinez always had a lot of money, once loaning him $10,000 in cash and telling him to pay it back when he could.

Like others who knew Martinez in Maine, he wondered where all the money came from, but he decided that it wasn’t his business.

Pappaconstantine said he helped Martinez file his 1040 form because “the man didn’t know anything about taxes.” It just listed the income he made for the jobs he held.

He said Martinez had a 2017 Dodge Ram truck for work but he also had a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a trail bike and many slick cars, often registered in other states and in the names of other people.

He said his friend always had access to the finest things, once sending him a picture of himself in a Rolls Royce in Atlanta, another time showing himself leaping into the ocean from a fancy yacht.

But Martinez didn’t mind slumming it either.

Pappaconstantine said when Martinez needed a car for work, they swapped vehicles for about six months, with Martinez driving a beat-up Nissan Frontier while he got behind the wheel of a stylish, new Ford Explorer Platinum.

The two watched movies, played games, had cookouts, made dinners and went out often. Pappaconstantine said his whole family knew Martinez. But, he said, lots of people did. Martinez’s outgoing nature brought him into a wide circle of people from all walks of life.

“He was inspiring in a lot of ways,” Pappaconstantine said, a role model because he had so much fun without drinking, was “wicked funny,” generous and kind.

“He was such a character,” he said. “Everybody loved him.”

Martinez, he said, liked to turn up the volume loud when he listened to music or watched his 85-inch television.

SHOCKING NEWS

When he heard from a friend that somebody had shot and killed Martinez while he was driving his Ram truck away from a Harlem nightclub, Pappaconstantine said he felt shell shocked.

He couldn’t quite believe it as he read countless news stories about what had happened, none of them especially enlightening.

Pappaconstantine said what struck him is how somebody managed to fire six rounds through the driver’s side window of a moving truck in a close pattern, something he’s pretty sure he couldn’t do despite his familiarity with guns. It looked to him like a hit from someone who knows how it’s done.

After learning the true identity of his friend, Pappaconstantine said he recently saw the movie “Paid in Full” for the first time because one of its main characters is based on Martinez in his drug empire heyday.

As he watched the mayhem on screen, he said he thought “this is insane.”

He said he can see that in some ways, Martinez was “a terrible man.”

“If I didn’t know him, I’d say he deserved it,” Pappaconstantine said.

But, he said, he can’t ignore the friend he knew well, a man who had been nothing but fun and kind.

Tara said she could see that Martinez “was not a very good person” all along, mostly because of the way he treated women.

At one point, she said, he had a fiancée, but hit on Tara anyway.

She said she told him no, that she was friends with his fiancée.

“You deserve to be loved,” Martinez responded.

“Yes, I do,” Tara answered. “But not by you.”

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