Life and Times of a Suburban Drug Dealer

Jan 17, 2013 - by Seth Ferranti - 0 Comments

Special to Crime Magazine

An excerpt from Seth Ferranti’s new book, Gorilla Convict: The Prison Writings of Seth Ferranti. To buy the book or for more information, go to or Amazon

by Seth Ferranti

I don't know why I became a drug dealer. Free drugs I suppose. It wasn't something I planned. It just happened. I used to buy quarter ounces of weed or hits of acid from my godbrother and his friends. They had a party house by Springfield Mall. I was always cruising over to score. I was like 17 and these dudes were all 21 or so. I idolized them. They didn't work or nothing. Just hung out, partied, got laid, and sold drugs.

I was bringing them crazy business. Finally I said fuck it. I can do this myself. But I needed some contacts. I asked my godbrother to hook me up and he took me down to Kentucky. It was a long trip but worth it. My godbrother introduced me to country boy Scott, who became my contact. He had a tobacco farm down in Monticello and grew a little weed on the side. He didn't fuck around though. He and his partners had it down to a science. These guys were straight-up country. I'm talking shotguns, moonshine, cockfights, muscle cars, and pit bulls. They planted and cultivated their weed to perfection. They showed me a patch once, way out in the deep forest. I thought they might try to kill and rob me and leave me buried out there. But they didn't. Their marijuana plants were like trees, easily 15-feet tall, with tree size trucks, and an IV-bag mainlined into the roots pumping in plant vitamins. It was some crazy fucking shit.

I still needed an LSD source though, my godbrother said, "Go on tour dude."

The first Grateful Dead show I went to was in Deer Park, Indiana. I drove there from Fairfax with some deadhead wanna-be's. I wasn't really into The Dead, music wise, but I needed an LSD connect. Dead shows were filled with LSD peddlers. The parking lot scene was a carnival, half circus, half flea market, with drugs, tie-dyes, hippies everywhere. I met this kid, Drummer Al, a hardcore Deadhead who was at all the Dead shows. They called him Drummer Al because he was always in the drum pit banging on the congas. This dude was skinny and really burnt out, with natty dreadlocks to his waist. He wore cut-off fatigues and Birkenstocks, but never wore a shirt. He sold me 2,000 hits of triple-set, blotter acid and gave me a number to call in Frisco to order more whenever I needed it. Mail-order LSD was only a phone call away. What an awesome connection, I thought. I figured that, with the Kentucky bud contact and the new mail order acid, my fortune was made.

Back home in Virginia things were jumping. I was becoming very popular. "You got the kind dude?" Someone asked.  "Fuck yeah." Everyone welcomed me to the party. The scene was straight suburbia: Burke Centre, Fairfax County, 1988, hot chicks, cool dudes and imported brewskies. Stolis. REM blasted on the stereo. All was enjoyed in the confines of somebody's parents' house. I greeted the hostess, an exotic looking brunette with large brown eyes and creamy olive skin who was a freshman at Penn State. She was wearing a tight black dress that stuck to her curvy, lithe form and magnified the prominence of her breasts which seemed to jut out at me. "Steph, where's the folks?" I inquired, trying not to stare at her tits.

"They're at the beach house, dude, all weekend." She beamed. "You can stay here if you want." She said with a hint of smile. Cool, I thought I can set up shop and possibly hook up with Stephanie.

Everyone had money and everyone wanted drugs. Luckily, I was holding. I had the kind from Kentucky and the blue unicorn trips from Cali. Like the Bluegrass State, I was open for business.

I made money but I spent it just as fast. It just seeped through my hands like water. More Becks for the party? Okay. I got it. Order Dominoes pizza. No problem. A little trip to the Union Street Bar and Grill. Don't worry. I got the tab.

I would take my inner circle of friends out to eat at Red Lobster or wherever. It was always my treat. I was the king of my own court and I was always decked out. I bought Eddie Bauer Polo shirts, Timberland boots, Doc Martins, Air Jordans, and whatever new CDs or Sega Genesis games came out. Shopping was an everyday thing. I would buy something, wear it once, and give it away.

And the drugs-- I smoked weed constantly, like cigarettes. I loved going to parties and busting out a Cheech-and-Chong size joint. "Fucking hell, dude," they would say, "Is that all weed?" I would smile with satisfaction as I nodded my head and lit the stogie. I enjoyed being the man.

Seth Ferranti

It wasn't long before drugs became my whole life. I bought them. I sold them. I lived them. In '89 I graduated from Robinson High School. It was a blast but it was time to move on. I was still living at home and I'm sure my parents knew what was going on, but not to the full extent. One time I gave my mom twelve grand to hold for me. She was like "Where'd you get this?" I told her I orchestrated a couple of drug deals. "Well you better not do it anymore," she said. I promised her I wouldn't. But I was lying because I was already planning on getting the next load, then cashing out and re-upping. I thought I was a businessman, a professional drug dealer. It was like I had a career or something.

As my clientele grew, so did my cash flow. I started looking for other sources and reached out to my Robinson High School buddy Zane who attended the University of Texas at Arlington. This guy was a first-class stoner. I'm talking weed connoisseur. He had his shit together though. He went to University of Texas full-time and managed a little bar-restaurant at night. He was a solid dude.

I would fly down to Dallas and cop 30-pound loads of commercial-grade brick pot from Zane's source, Mexican Eddie. I would then wrap the bricks in hefty bags, pack them in my suitcase, and check it through baggage for my flight back to DC. I would pay someone $500 to pick up the load from the luggage carousel at DC National just in case there was any problem.

This proved to be a sweet connect as Mexican Eddie had a trucking company based in Matamoras, Mexico. He brought in 500- pound loads. He was always on. The weed wasn't as good as the Kentucky bud, but it was cheaper at $500 a pound. And it moved fast for $1,500 a pound. I also got it on the front so I didn't have to pay for it until I sold it.

This guy Mexican Eddie was a trip too. He had this apartment in Dallas where he entertained his customers and finalized deals. This place was jumping like 24 hours a day. Every time I went there, no matter what time it was, there was this fucking mariachi band playing their Mexican asses off in sombreros and Mexican bowtie suits. It was crazy. Mexican Eddie would be hooping and hollering like Speedy Gonzales, as some Latinas made burritos and served Coronas. A couple of big vatos stood in the background all silent like, acting as Mexican Eddie's personal bodyguards. I could never get over the sight of the mariachi band though at 2 a.m. in the morning playing loudly in the apartment’s living room. It was like a Tiajuana-mescalin trip or something.

Most of my friends were at colleges now and they all wanted drugs. So I started hauling loads up to the universities. I had a set route. I used to drive south down Interstate 81 in Virginia from Fairfax to Radford and Virginia Tech where the Miller brothers took care of business for me. The older brother was an acid freak who moved crazy LSD at Tech. The younger one attended Radford. His thing was pot and women. He hooked me up with a new cutie every time I rolled in. I would drop off Kentucky green. Brick pot. Acid. And I collected whatever money they had for me as I frolicked with whatever girl was at hand. I would then cut through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky and meet up with country boy Scott, who always wanted trips to sell at Eastern Kentucky University.

Then I would drive north up Interstate 75 to Lexington and the University of Kentucky where this spacey, psych major Brandon bought acid and kind bud. Then I drove east to West Virginia University in Morgantown where my buddies in the Delta Fraternity sold drugs for me. This was definitely my biggest market and a major party place. I would stop and see the hot brunette Steph at Penn State, who knew a lot of dudes who could move a lot of drugs, before going back to Fairfax. At each stop it was like, "What do you got dude? Here's the money."

For a while I had this girl Kristi, running drugs with me. She would do most of the driving and when I drove she would give me blowjobs. She was also a nymphomaniac and was up for sex whenever, a real dream girl. We did have some close calls on the road though, such as when a Virginia State Trooper pulled right up behind us on Interstate 81 when we were carrying. "You don't think he saw the joint, do you?" Kristi asked me.

"I don't know. Just drive normal," I told her. "And think of white light. Only white light. It will make us seem innocent." Kristi put the joint in the ashtray and turned down the car stereo.

"Are you thinking of white light?" I asked as the five-o flicked on his lights. Momentarily we were gripped with panic, but then the cruiser switched lanes and rocketed past us. Kristi laughed as she grabbed the joint, fired it up, and turned up the thumping bass lines of NWA's "Fuck the Police." I really loved Kristi, but eventually she dumped me for heroin.

Trip parties were also a big event in Fairfax, especially in the summer time when everyone was home from school. A house was always available as people's parents went on vacation. I would make sure to invite everyone and supply the acid. I convinced this girl Shawnthia to throw a trip party one weekend when her parentals cruised. She was a pretty blond chick from Robinson who just graduated. The party was crazy. The techno music was pumping LA Style's "James Brown is Dead" as we held our own mini rave. Everyone was dosed out, chilling, but this one dude started freaking.

"Fuck dude, I'm like totally tripping," he said. "It's like the colors are in my head,.but they're floating and they're falling. I'm drowning in colors. They're everywhere. Don't you see them?" Shawnthia and I laughed as we tripped on the dude wigging out. I decided to make my play, so I grabbed Shawnthia's hand and pulled her into a bedroom. "What are you doing?" She asked.

"Trying to get some privacy," I answered as I guided her head down to my crotch. "Oh," she said, as she unbuttoned my jeans.

I loved my life. I was like a rock star. Drugs, girls, money, blowjobs. What more could I want? I was 19 and on top of the world. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get busted. I mean, I was no criminal. I was from the suburbs. And I was white. They never busted people from the suburbs, especially not white kids. But I was wrong.

I was in Hawaii when I heard about the cop. The younger Miller brother was making moves via the mail-order LSD contact. Word was that a 16-year old Reston boy tripping on LSD shot and wounded a Fairfax County police officer, Darryl McEachern. The pig chased the kid down while breaking up a field party in Clifton. Apparently the punk was running naked through the woods.

Somehow he snatched the cop's gun and shot him in the chest. Miller told me that our buddy Dave, a long haired metal dude, had sold the acid to the 16-year old. We were fucked.

Soon thereafter, Dave the metal dude started working with the cops and upon my arrival in Fairfax, Miller and I were lured into a sting operation and arrested by undercover Fairfax County narc Mike Sullivan. This kid Scott, a small insecure kid who Miller was breaking in was arrested with us. We were charged with LSD conspiracy by the state of Virginia.

The DEA was called into interrogate us. DEA task force agent Joe Woolf explained that the DEA was well aware of all my dealings and that if I gave up the shipment of LSD I had stashed they would make it worth my while. I told him "I'm not saying anything until I see a lawyer." He yelled back, "Oh yeah, well your lawyer's gonna want to suck my dick."

My parents bailed me out of Fairfax County Jail, putting up their house to secure the bond. They were angry though. The DEA had ransacked our house but no drugs turned up. Then disaster struck. Scott, the new kid, under pressure, cracked, confessing to police that he was holding 100 sheets of acid for me in his basement bedroom. It was time to see that lawyer.

My mother suggested this lawyer Michael Reiger. She had heard he was a hotshot criminal attorney. Not knowing any better, I agreed. In my first consultation with Reiger, he pressed me to tell him the whole story. So I did. I gave him six grand cash as a retainer. "This isn't drug money, is it," he asked.

"Like you fucking care?" I retorted. In my opinion there wasn't much to the case. I expected leniency because I was from the affluent suburb of Burke Centre and had no criminal record. I thought maybe I'd have to go into a drug rehab or something. My attorney, Mr. Reiger, seemed to take the whole affair lightly. But I hadn't taken into account the revenge factor of the Fairfax County Police Department.

At the urging of the Fairfax County Police, the case went federal. They portrayed me as an arrogant hothead who flaunted cash and sold LSD to unsuspecting high school students. The evidence against me consisted of fingerprints on the acid blotter paper and various written records of drug transactions. Mr. Reiger insisted we needed a federal lawyer to assist him. So I hired Tom Carter. The first time I met Tom Carter, he informed me that Christine Wright, the U.S. Attorney, was going to indict me on seven different 10-to-life counts consisting of LSD conspiracy and distribution charges. He counseled that I plead guilty to a Continuing Criminal Enterprise charge that carried a mandatory-minimum 20-year sentence and that I cooperate with the government. The CCE charge was known as the drug-kingpin charge, something they would have slammed on Scarface. It didn't look good.

Following Mr. Carter's advice I pled guilty but I wasn't going to cooperate and I had no intention of serving any time. I always said I'd rather die than go to prison. I started making plans, one of the stipulations of my plea bargain was that I was to be released on my own recognizance. Judge Claude Hilton conducted my plea proceedings at the Alexandria Federal Courthouse in Old Town, Alexandria, on August 28, 1991. "How do you plead?" He demanded.

"Guilty." I answered.

"All right then," he concluded. "The court formally accepts your plea. You are released on a personal recognizance bond until sentencing on December 13, 1991.” I planned on being long gone by then.

My homecoming after the guilty plea was difficult. My parents were angry and disappointed in me. My mom, a religious woman, was particularly devastated. My dad, the military type, was standoffish, offended. I remember my mom crying, telling me I needed to pray to the Lord for guidance. Between her tears I decided all I needed was some luck to get the hell out of there. Luck and a solid bong hit.

I began to prepare for my flight. I had to be careful so as not to raise any suspicions. I was faking my way through debriefings with the feds. During those interviews I was interrogated by U.S. Attorney Christine Wright, DEA Agent Joe Woolf, and the arresting Fairfax County undercover agent Mike Sullivan. I bullshitted them, making them think I would lure in big-time LSD dealers from Cali for them to bust. But the truth was I didn't know any big-time LSD dealers. Even if I did, I'm no rat motherfucker. Anyway, all my dealings were with anonymous people over the phone. The feds didn't know that though.

Christine Wright was particularly fanatical about the case. Her nipples seemed to pop out of her shirt whenever she discussed the possibility of inflicting misery on others. Her diabolical aura made her seem like a female Darth Vader. I felt like Luke Skywalker fighting the dark side of the force. The evil factions of the United States Government were arrayed against me, as I attempted to escape their clutches.

I contemplated suicide, but the prospect of death was terrifying so I decided to stage my suicide instead so the feds would think I was dead, throwing them off my trail and making my transition to a new life easier. If I never turned up, I would be declared legally dead in seven years. It was a good idea I thought.

Great Falls was the place where I would pretend to die. I had it all planned out. I would stage my suicide and then split. Great Falls was a National Park frequented by tourists and kayakers. Vast cliffs towered over the rushing Potomac and the jagged rocks below where class-IV rapids ran wild, representing the most accessible whitewater river in the world. I pictured my body being smashed and mangled against the rocks in the whitewater frenzy as it washed out to the Atlantic Ocean.

I left my wheels in the parking lot for the U.S. Park Police to find. On the banks of the Potomac, near where the Great Falls were crashing down, I left a half-empty bottle of Stoli's vodka, my jacket and wallet, everything necessary to establish my identity. I left a note in the Subaru:

            Journey to the center of the star ain't that far
            Boundaries are limitless in my head Now I'm dead

            Such a tender young imagination Adds to my frustration
                        I crave death
                        Death is my maker
                        So ends the journey of a lost soul
                        Wrong person Wrong place
                        Wrong time

The note captured my feelings exactly. I'd rather have died than have gone to jail. The prospect of spending my youth in prison was too much for me to handle. My whole world had crumbled so quickly. I just wanted to escape the situation. I felt so empty inside as all my hopes and dreams turned to dust. I was left with only one aspiration: To run.

As I walked away from the Potomac I walked away from my shattered life. "Let's go." I told my godbrother who drove me to D.C. National Airport to begin my life on the lam.

I flew to LA where an old girlfriend, Nancy, took me in. She was kind of slutty but sexy and pretty. Not too bright though. She lived at Point Magoo, a Navy Port, up the coast from LA. Her dad was the XO on the base. Her folks didn't know I was a fugitive.

This was the start of my fugitive lifestyle. I lived under a series of false identities, zigzagging from Hollywood to Dallas to St. Louis. At first I experienced extreme paranoia. I was always looking over my shoulder. I thought the feds were waiting around every corner to arrest me and take me to prison. It was all mental though. There were no feds, only me and my paranoid delusions.

For the first couple of weeks after my arrival in Cali, Nancy and I scoured the Washington papers for news of my disappearance. It was strange seeing the headline news in the Metro Section of the Washington Post, "Fairfax LSD Kingpin Missing: Suicide Note found in car." As I read the article I became distraught. Law enforcement officials had declared my suicide a hoax after the park police made an extensive search of the area and found no evidence of a body. It appeared my ruse was up.

When my cash flow ran out I ended up in Texas. My old buddy Zane put me up. He reacquainted me with Mexican Eddie and I started moving some brick weed. Zane's friends at UT were good customers but you can't make money selling weed in Texas. It's too cheap and plentiful. I was selling quarters to the Harrigan’s crowd when I met Jeff, a sleepy eyed, mellow, guitar playing stoner who cooked at the restaurant. He started helping me make moves and I eventually found out he was from St. Louis. So I proposed a little trip.

We took 20 pounds of brick pot up to Missouri. The shit flew out the door. At a grand mark-up per pound, the market was good. Through Jeff I met Dan the man who had a glass blowing business and made some killer pipes and Laid-back Dave who was a senior at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Both of those dudes moved some serious weight. It looked like my fortune was rising again. I went by Christopher Hoss. I had different fake ID's with the first name Christopher so when people asked my last name I said Hoss to avoid confusion. It sounded like a Texas name.

Dallas to St. Louis became my new smuggling route. I was running up 20-pound loads every other week. The loot was rolling in as I started hanging with the TGI Friday party crowd. I was actually getting over all that paranoia shit. Then disaster struck again.

I got arrested in a Burger King parking lot with my partner, Jeff the cook. The cops found a half-pound of weed in his truck. We were taken to St. Charles County Jail. The police released us after I agreed to feed them info on high-level traffickers. Another line of bullshit. When they never heard from me they ran my prints and all hell broke loose.

From watching episodes of "Cops" and "America's Most Wanted," I figured it would take two to three months for my prints to match up. What I didn't count on was my U.S. Marshals top-15 status. My prints matched up in three days and the U.S. Marshals Special Fugitive Task Force, led by Marshal Luke Adler, were hot on my trail.

Why was I top 15? Apparently this federali, Henry Hudson, was one of the U.S. attorney's handling my original case in Virginia, and when I fled, I represented the black mark on his otherwise distinguished record. Coincidentally, Hudson left the U.S. Attorney's Office soon thereafter to head the U.S. Marshal's Service. Hudson moved my case to the Most Wanted list, making it among the marshal's top investigative priorities. This was another case of the revenge factor working against me

On October 1, 1993, at 6:45 a.m., U.S. Marshal Luke Adler and the Special Fugitive Task Force busted into my Econolodge motel room in Bridgeton, Missouri, and captured me. I was kind of half expecting it because in the preceding days I could feel them closing in on me. Jeff the Cook had turned himself into the marshals and became an informant. So due to his snitching ass, I was cut off from my clientele, friends, and money. I was stuck in the hotel room with 18 pounds of pot that I couldn't sell. So I tried smoking it.

It was a relief to be caught. I could be myself again. No more fake ID's. No more running from state to state. No more making up phony stories to protect my identity. And at last, I could call mom.

Seth Ferranti

I was taken to the North County Federal Detention Center. As soon as I was able, I phoned my mother. It was an emotional phone call. I hadn't talked to her for almost two years. She had been repeatedly harassed by the U.S. Marshals during my absence. They threatened her, trying to get her to give information of my whereabouts, information she didn't have. She assured me everything would be okay. She would pray for me and call my lawyers. It was good just to hear her voice. "See you soon mom," I said. As I hung up the phone, I felt tears on my cheek.

I was extradited back to Virginia and brought before the judge. Amid the spectators attending my sentencing, I spotted my mother and gave her a smile. U.S. Attorney Timothy Shea told the judge I was a machine-gun- toting, skinhead-LSD-marijuana freak who corrupted society and deserved to go to prison for life. My lawyer, Reiger, countered that I was a drug- addict mixed-up kid who fell in with the wrong crowd, but that I was really a good person at heart who wanted to change for the better. I felt more like a victim of circumstance, guilty only of being the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time. But I don't think any of that mattered to the judge.

Judge Hilton tried not to look bored as he contemplated my fate. His countenance grew grim as he shuffled some papers and pronounced my sentence. "You will be committed to the custody of the Attorney General for a term of 304 months." After doing the math, I realized I had a 25-year sentence – more time then how old I was.



A first-time, non-violent offender, Ferranti has served 19 years of his 25-year mandatory minimum sentence. His case was widely covered by the Washington Post and Washington Times, and his story was profiled in the pages of Rolling Stone and Don Diva magazine. His current release date is October, 2015. During his incarceration, Ferranti has worked to better himself by making preparations for his eventual release back into society. Ferranti earned an AA degree from Penn State, a BA degree from the University of Iowa through correspondence courses, a Masters from California State University, Dominguez Hills. Along with his studies, Ferranti writes about the prison experience. Numerous magazines including "Don Diva, Slam", "Vice", "FHM". "King", "Feds", "The Ave" have published his articles. Go  to for more information.

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