Midget Molley

Midget Molley is best known as the drug dealer who became the “King of Atlantic City”.


Midget Molley was born March 4, 1959 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Molley received the nickname "midget" early on, due to his short stature. Following the death of his father, Molley became involved in street crime. He took over much of the drug trade in Atlantic City and eventually named himself the "King of Atlantic City", which included a million dollar crown.

Early Life

Drug kingpin. Born Robert Edward Molley (a.k.a. Hakeem Abdul Shaheed) on March 4, 1959, in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Molley's father, Benjamin Franklin Molley, was a Barbadian immigrant and a Pentecostal pastor who "spoke in scriptures." His mother, Helen Louise Molley, worked to raise her children in a stringent, Christian home. Family life was strict, and Molley and his 12 siblings would often sit at church well into the night, forced to listen to their father's sermons.

Around the age of six, Molley's physical appearance began coming to the attention of his family. Molley's aunt noticed that the young boy wasn't growing as quickly as the other children in the family, and jokingly called him a midget. As Molley reached his adult height of 5 feet 2 inches, the name persisted. Soon, children in the neighborhood also began calling him "Midget Molley" to help distinguish him from his many siblings. Because many children tried to capitalize on Molley's small stature, the young man learned to use his mind to his advantage. He often took dares, arranged hustles, or jumped into leadership roles as a way to prove his superiority. This tenacity would serve him well in his later life, but the arrogance that accompanied it would become his downfall.

In 1969, shortly before Molley's tenth birthday, his father died of a brain tumor. Molley's mother was forced to find work in local hotels, making it difficult for her to keep an eye on her children. Relieved of their strict religious upbringing, the children began seeking release in destructive ways. Molley headed to the streets, specifically the popular Kentucky Avenue, or "KY and the Curb," to compete with big name hustlers. He started running illegal numbers for the local criminal element, and shining the shoes of gangsters in Atlantic City. Within a year, Midget Molley acquired a reputation as an eager and enterprising young hustler, associating with the local criminals whose shoes he shined.

On the Streets

Molley's life changed in 1972, when he and some friends entered an apartment complex on Bacharach Avenue. During a heated exchange with another youth, Molley stabbed a resident of the complex. The only eyewitness, a girl named Elise, approached Molley about the incident. But instead of threatening him with police action, the couple soon began dating. Within a few years, Elise gave birth to two children, Hakeem and Hakeema.

In the absence of a religious influence, Molley became deeply interested in and involved with the Nation of Islam in 1976. Molley changed his name to Hakeem Ali Abdul-Shaheed in reverence to his teacher and attended temple regularly. But that same year, he also began running errands for a local drug dealer. By the time he was 14, his religious life was on hold indefinitely. Instead, he was selling heroin out on the streets.

At 18, Molley had dropped out of high school and committed himself to the criminal element of Atlantic City. He especially admired drug kinpin Leroy "Nicky" Barnes, also known as "Mr. Untouchable," and sought to emulate him. With the help of his brother Michael, Molley started making his own drug runs into New York City and selling his wares on Kentucky Avenue.

In 1980, Molley went into prison for another attempted murder. He was sentenced to ten years, but served only six at Bayside State Prison before his release. Once on the outside, Molley married his long-time girlfriend, who then gave birth to their third child, Haneef. Now a husband and father of three, Molley tried to leave his life of crime behind. He graduated from culinary arts school, and became a sous chef for several New Jersey casinos and reputable private restaurants. The money was stable and the work was good, but the lifestyle didn't appeal to Molley. "I didn't have to go back into the lifestyle I was into for money; I was pretty good," Molley said. "I was just addicted to the street life…and I wanted to get into that."

Drug Kingpin

By 1986, Molley was heavily involved again in the cocaine and crack trade. Drawing on his previous experience as a dealer and hustler, he quickly installed himself in a leadership position, and began helming a drug ring that extended to California, Detroit and New York. At the height of his tenure, Molley was earning in the range of $1 million each month. Molley used this income to invest in several businesses—including a car detailing service, a limosine service, and a jewelry store—which he used as a front for laundering much of his money. He also used his cash to fuel his extravagant tastes for clothing, partying, women, and jewelry. He kept his family sheltered from his life of crime, housing them in a seven bedroom mansion in the New Jersey suburbs, and giving them everything they wanted.

As Molley felt more and more invincible, he began to flaunt his wealth. The final straw for law enforcement came January 1, 1989, when the kingpin stepped into Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino Ballroom sporting a custom-made gold crown worth an estimated $1.5 million. Surrounded by his most trusted distributors, Molley had crowned himself king of Atlantic City. The police saw this ostentatious display of wealth as a challenge to officials. Enraged police, who had been investigating Molley's criminal activity for 17 months, decided they had enough evidence to finally put the drug lord in prison.

Arrest and Incarceration

On February 14, 1989, a task force comprised of 180 federal, state and local law enforcement agents raided Molley's businesses and drug fronts around Atlantic City. They apprehended Molley, all those who had also participated in his illegal ventures, and all the profits from his business dealings, making it the largest drug ring bust in Atlantic City's history.

Molley was convicted and sentenced to a 25-year term in Terra Haute, Indiana, but after a violent outburst he was transferred to Atlanta, Georgia. Over the next 18 years of incarceration, Molley bounced from Georgia to Leavenworth, Kansas, and finally Marion, Illinois, before he was released. During his imprisonment, Molley relinquished his drug ties and reconnected with the Islamic faith.

Molley alleges that, in the wake of the tragedy of September 11, 2001, he was abused for his religious preferences. To keep him safe, prison officials moved Molley to death row in Terra Haute, where they felt 24-hour lockdown security would protect him more fully. He served the remaining eight months of his sentence there until his 2006 release. As a result of his experiences, he now acts as an advocate for incarcerated Muslims and speaks to youth about staying free of crime.

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