THIEF! The Gutsy, True Story of an Ex-Con Artist
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Uncensored: Inside the Belly of the Beast
In a few months, after 20+ years of incarceration, inmate Seth Ferranti will experience what some of us take for granted...a life outside prison. He was a first-time, non-violent offender who received the mandatory penalty prescribed by law. Without mincing words, Seth gives MOB SPEAK a first-hand account of what doing that time has been like.
Letter from Prison
by Seth Ferranti
I got locked up in 1993, when the War on Drugs was at its height. As a first time, non-violent offender I got a 25 year sentence for a Continuing Criminal Enterprise charge. This is a charge usually associated with likes of Pablo Escobar type dudes, big time drug kingpins, but for some reason the Eastern District of Virginia used it on me. They claimed the amount of LSD found in my case, about 120 sheets or twelve thousand hits of acid, was the largest seizure in Northern Virginia ever, but in truth I wasn't a drug kingpin. I was just a kid, barely out of my teens, who was selling LSD and marijuana at several East Coast colleges.
For a twenty year old I was making good money, but in the big scheme of things I was just a small time drug dealer. When I got busted I had only been selling drugs for a couple of years at the most. There was no criminal organization, or gang or cartel, it was just me driving around to the colleges my friends attended and hitting them off. I was more addicted to the lifestyle than to the drugs, but I partied a lot, like most college kids do, a lot of marijuana, LSD and alcohol. It was a nice life while it lasted and a viable career choice I thought at the time, until I got busted and was sentenced to more time than how old I was under the federal sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimums Congress enacted in the late 80s as a result of the crack epidemic.
What was supposed to be my American dream turned into a real life nightmare? I was from the suburbs and I didn't know anything about the federal drug laws or conspiracy or prison. I wasn't a gang banger or a tough guy or any of that. I didn't see prison as a rite of passage and my idea of prison life came from watching movies like The Shawshank Redemption. I never carried a gun or beat anyone up in my life but for some reason I was branded public enemy number one and made the scapegoat for all of society’s ills, or at least that was how it seemed to me. As I sat facing the reality of doing hard time, I decided to take my chances on the lam and I took off. I was always kind of a rebel at heart and the outlaw life seemed romantic to me. I didn't think I was Tony Montana from Scarface, more like Jeff Spicoli from Fastimes at Ridgemont High, But despite being a stoner I had a little Catch Me If You Can in me and going to federal prison wasn't in my plans.
My case was from 1991 and for two years I was a fugitive from justice or maybe we should say injustice but it’s all relative now. I had been getting loads of weed out of Dallas since the late 80s and I settled in the Arlington area while I was on the run. I had some friends at the University of Texas and I quickly settled back into a drug dealing routine, eventually driving loads of pot up to Saint Louis, Missouri. Where after a short time I got caught and extradited back to Virginia. For some reason the US Marshals had put me on their Top 15 Most Wanted fugitive list and my capture was given national priority. Like I was Whitey Bulger or something. Go figure. Again I was never quite sure why, but that's how it all went down.
At the age of 22 I was sent to federal prison to start doing my time. I don't have any vicious penitentiary war stories to tell you, but the medium security prisons I was housed at were rough enough. Back in the 90s they called them gladiator schools and you could get shanked, cut or cracked in the head with a lock on a belt. I found out it was about respect and I carried myself accordingly. I managed to stay busy, stay out of trouble and stay out of the way. But eventually I got comfortable in prison and I started doing the same things I was doing on the street, smuggling marijuana. Except this time I was smuggling it in through the prison's visiting room. I would swallow 10-15 marble sized balloons full of kind bud and smoke to my heart’s content. I was still in shock at my 25 year sentence and was self-medicating to numb myself so I didn't have to feel the reality of my situation. I also sold the weed and made a decent living as a prison hustler. I did this for my first 9 years in the belly of the beast.
Eventually I got a clue and stopped smuggling and smoking weed. Around 2002 I decided I had to start working toward my future. I still had a lot of time left to do, with a 2015 release date, but being stuck in the netherworld of corruption and violence, the idea of being a career prison gangster didn't appeal to me. So I made a choice, a choice to do everything I could to prepare myself for my inevitable release. To that end I started taking college correspondence courses and earned an AA degree from Penn State, a BA from the University of Iowa and an MA from California State University. All from prison. I was locked up but that didn't mean I couldn't accomplish something positive. It was hard work getting those degrees from here but I did it, despite the lack of cooperation and accommodation from the Bureau of Prisons. Because rehabilitation isn't their goal, warehousing men is what they do. If you want to do better for yourself, you have to take that into your own hands and that is what I did.
I was always big into sports and working out. I played in the intramural basketball, soccer, softball and flag football leagues. Prison sports were rough but I made sure I always represented. I was known as a go hard white boy who was a good but not great athlete. I channeled my anger at my sentence into sports and my studies and it helped me tremendously to stay focused and in shape. I started spending more time in the prison library. I was out of the mix, away from the politics and all the drama that goes down in prison. After several years of this type of behavior I was transferred to a nice, tame, low security prison where it wasn't all about the politics and who was running the yard and bringing in drugs and getting punked out or checked in. It took a minute to get used to the low security prison, because I was used to cells and the lows were cubicles and open dorms, but I adjusted and it’s been about 8 years now that I have resided in a low. Less tension, politics and a generally more accommodating atmosphere.
I decided to start writing articles and books about prison life and true crime. My first book Prison Stories was well received and brought me a lot of accolades. I went on to author over 500 articles that were published in magazines and on the Internet and I have authored 7 books to date, all true crime, with more on the way. With the help of my girlfriend, who I married in 2005, I started a website, blog and publishing house from prison. Over the years my website, books and writings have generated a lot of interest and helped me to establish a career from here. You can check out my website at gorillaconvict.com. I write books about gangsters and I have covered all of the street legends that rappers like Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Nas and LL Cool J rhyme about. I have been locked up with a lot of these dudes in the feds and done interviews with them and got the exclusive stories to share with the world. My site also has tons of prison stories, interviews with gang members and covers the crack era and life in the belly of the beast like no other site on the Internet.
I have written for magazines like Vice, Don Diva, and F.E.D.S. and my work on prison basketball have appeared on hoopshype.com and in Slam. I have also written for thefix.com, the dailybeast.com and Maxim on how to smuggle drugs into prison, how to make hooch and how to make body armor in case you are expecting to get in a knife fight. I have used my time productively and made a career as a writer from here so that I have a future when I get out. It hasn't always been easy as I have been locked up in the hole, put under investigation, had my property seized and destroyed and been shaken down and harassed repeatedly, due to my writing efforts, but despite the hassles it has been worth it, because I have a future. And in prison that is the biggest thing, hope for a better life in the future. I am not coming home from prison, after almost 21 years of incarceration, with nothing. I have prospects, opportunities and options. But I have worked hard for all that awaits me.
I have rehabilitated myself in effect. The Bureau of Prison hasn't had anything to do with it. But that's life on the inside. You fight for what you want and if you fight hard enough, you get it. Because in here nobody is going to give you anything for free. I have overcome tremendous obstacles, sometimes self-imposed, to be in the position I am now and I have worked hard throughout. As my time is coming to an end it is a new beginning for me. I have my wife, I have my career, I have my publishing house and my website with a lot of writing credits on my resume. I also have my music, I have wrote tons of songs and will be performing under the name, White Boy Mafia, when I get out. I recorded some songs back in FCI Manchester in 1996 that hopefully they will play a little of for you all to listen to. Remember that name, White Boy Mafia.
I go home in a couple of months and I am ready for the world. I am hungry for it, Just imagine, 21 years, I have done it and it still doesn't seem real to me. But it is real and when I walk out that gate I suppose it will all hit me. I have had a long journey but it is almost over now. I go to a halfway house on August 1 of this year. Just a couple of months left now. The first thing I want to do when I get home is to make love to my wife, eat a Dominos or Pizza Hut pizza and take a bath. I have plans to start taking the content I have created into the visual realm. So be on the lookout for a series of documentaries from me and visit gorillaconvict.com. Look for some music releases from White Boy Mafia also. If you like my work or music please feel free to drop me a line at gorillaconvict.com and friend me on Facebook at Seth Ferranti and you can order all my books on gorillaconvict.com. Thanks to Gavin for setting this up and I hope to be playing in Deep Ellum sometime soon.
MOB SPEAK thanks Seth Ferranti for sharing his thoughts and views with us. We hope to follow him on the outside after he digests what we humans have done on this planet since he's been in prison.