Parnell Steven "Stacks" Edwards (January 15, 1947 South Bronx – December 18, 1978 Morningside Heights, Manhattan) was an African-American musician and criminal who became associated with the infamous Jimmy Burke and the Vario crew in 1967. Edwards was portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson in the film Goodfellas.
Edwards was born in the South Bronx, to parents from North Carolina and Northern Virginia. He was said to have been chubby at 5'8", 285 pounds, but became muscular from his visits to prison. He was a bodyguard to Muhammad Ali. He met mobster Tommy DeSimone as a struggling blues-rock musician, singer and songwriter on Queens Boulevard sometime during 1967, earning money as a street performer. At the time DeSimone was selling stolen Rolex watches. DeSimone began to think of Edwards as a "brother" and the two became close friends. Around this time, DeSimone adopted the same integrationist stance later adopted by Colombo crime family mobster Joe Gallo and Gallo associates, believing that Italian organized crime should work with black organized crime to increase power and profits.
Edwards and DeSimone became involved in credit card fraud and carjacking with Henry Hill. Edwards later moved to East Harlem after becoming an associate of the Vario Crew. Edwards was a heavy drug user, smoking marijuana before moving on to heroin and cocaine.
As a child growing up he was a fan of jazz, jump blues and gospel. Growing up, his interest in music increased and he learned to play the acoustic guitar. As Edwards got older his tastes turned to Fats Domino, Clarence "Frogman" Henry, Frankie Ford, Irma Thomas, The Neville Brothers and Dr. John. When rhythm and blues became outdated he listened to Ray Charles, Sam Cooke and James Brown and started performing blues-rock. Edwards worked the nightclub circuit and was hired on occasion by Burke for performances at Robert's Lounge from 1967 to 1978, and by Hill at his night club The Suite as a regular performer from 1967 to 1972.
Edwards formed a band called Grand Central Station in the early 1970s. He relied increasingly on organized crime rackets as a means of making money following his introduction to the Vario Crew by DeSimone.
An under-the-limit master Edit
Edwards earned a reputation within the Vario Crew as being an "under the limit" master in credit card fraud. He would go to a shopping center with a panel truck and purchase merchandise from the stores until he ran out of room on the truck. He would make $45 purchases on a card with a $50-expenditure limit every afternoon. His rampant shopping sprees would consist of blenders, transistor radios, cigarettes, razor blades and within two hours of steady shopping, call it quits. He had a girl from South Ozone Park, Queens who worked for MasterCharge, delivering cards. She would bring Edwards official office memos keeping him informed about security checkups and credit checks. Among his contacts Edwards included a female associate who worked at a local bank. She would give him duplicates of the cards and inform him of the amount of credit that was attached. Before a card was put in an envelope for delivery to the cardholder, Edwards would have a duplicate. If a card had a $500 credit line he would go into stores where he and members of the Vario Crew were known, or visit places like The Suite, The Bamboo Lounge and Robert's Lounge where he would punch out credit card slips. The associates he knew in the stores would call the bank and get authorization for whatever merchandise he wanted. The cardholder waiting for his card would never receive it and Edwards usually had enough time to make purchases on the certain card for about a month before it would be reported stolen.
Involvement in Lufthansa heist Edit
In 1978, Hill, working from a tipoff from bookmaker Martin Krugman, told Jimmy Burke of vast sums of cash being held overnight in a safe at the Lufthansa terminal at JFK airport in New York. Burke analyzed the possibilities and concluded that six men and two vans would be needed to successfully steal the cash. This was the first stage of the heist.
Burke assembled a crew consisting of his son Frank James Burke, Edwards, Joe Manri, Robert McMahon, Louis Cafora, Tommy DeSimone, Paolo LiCastri and Angelo Sepe. During the robbery, Edwards slugged Lufthansa employee Kerry Whalen. His job was to take the panel truck used in the heist and drive it to a junkyard in New Jersey, where mafia contacts would compact it and the evidence would be destroyed. The heist worked out better than Burke could have imagined, but Edwards neglected his duty and used heroin, visited his girlfriend Shelly, and fell asleep at her house. The police found the panel truck, parked in a no parking zone, with a muddy boot print matching a pair of shoes owned by Edwards.
Robert's Lounge Edit
Edwards's ambition was to be a successful blues singer and he was a regular performer at Robert's Lounge, in South Ozone Park, Queens. He was involved with various low level criminal enterprises with the Lucchese Family associates, paid in stolen goods. He would take the stolen goods and sell them to independent stores in Harlem and Jackson Heights or at flea markets in the area.
Shortly after the robbery, Edwards went into hiding in a South Ozone Park, Queens tenement after learning that the police identified him through fingerprints left in the getaway car. DeSimone and Sepe paid him a visit one early morning. After Edwards allowed DeSimone and Sepe to enter, DeSimone killed Edwards with a .32 silencer-equipped pistol. Even though DeSimone considered Parnell Edwards a friend, he considered his drug addiction a liability. As such, it would have been easy for Parnell to cooperate with authorities on the promise of free drugs.
Edwards' girlfriend Shelly found his body after coming home from shopping. The next day a distraught DeSimone called Edwards's mother, with whom DeSimone was acquainted, and said, "I'm so sorry, mom, about what happened to Stacks."
Hill visited with Edwards's distraught family briefly before Christmas 1978; DeSimone never attended the funeral.
In popular culture Edit
In the 1990 film GoodFellas, Edwards was played by actor Samuel L. Jackson. In the 2001 film for TV The Big Heist, he was portrayed by Bo Rucker.