Seth Ferranti – sharp-talking, hard-working, lovable bad boy, convicted crime kingpin turned media mogul-in-training – appears to be omnipresent. After sitting on the US Marshall’s Top 15 most wanted list for two years Ferranti was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison. A first-time offender, Ferranti created a writing and publishing career straight from his cell block. His brash savage depictions of prison life and big boy gangsters offer a squalid, compelling, often explicit reflection of life behind bars. Ferranti is a regular contributor to Vice, Don Diva, Penthouse and other magazines, as well as founder of Gorilla Convict, a real crime website and publisher chronicling the stories mainstream media have chosen to ignore.
Since his release in 2015 Ferranti has launched GR1ND Studios, a graphic novel studio featuring the true stories of ‘prohibition mobsters,’ ‘suburban drug dealers,’ and metro drug czars. Ferranti has diversified into the film biz too. His newly released series “Easter Bunny Assassin” can be viewed here and is the official selection for the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase.
Saira Viola: Tell me about the first time you took weed ?
Seth Ferranti: I smoked weed for the first-time when I was 13 years old. I was living in San Jose, California, and bought some tai sticks off this jerry-curled black guy. I was an All American Kid. I played sports and sung in the choir. I was a mama’s boy, but after that first joint my life kind of went on a different path. I started getting into drugs and partying and girls and money.
S.V. How does a self-confessed choir-singing mama’s boy from a safe, white, middle class neighbourhood go from smoking weed to distributing more than 100,000 doses of LSD?
S.F. I took to selling drugs naturally. LSD and marijuana mostly. I used to follow the Grateful Dead. Not necessarily for the music. I was chasing an acid connect. I got one too. Mail order straight from San Francisco. I would get 100 sheets of acid a month. I was living in Fairfax, Virginia. Right outside of our nation’s capital and I was flooding East Coast colleges with acid and kind bud. I liked to trip on acid. I felt like it expanded my mind. I envisioned myself as a kind of counterculture outlaw. Supplying acid and pot, things that are being used medically now. It was a natural progression. People just trusted me when I said I could move stuff. I remember convincing this Mexican cartel guy to stash 500 pounds of weed at one of my apartments. I was just good at stuff like that so I rose in the drug dealer hierarchy fast. I was scoring ounces from my older godbrother at the age of 16 and at nineteen he was selling pounds for me.
S.V. By the time you were 19 you were supplying 15 Colleges in 5 states with LSD and weed pulling in 20/30K a month. What did your parents think you were doing ?
S.F. Well I had my own place from the age of 17 onwards. I had a place at my parents too of course but I was hardly ever there. My parents were in denial. They didn’t want to believe that their little baby boy could be doing stuff like that. But it was evident. I didn’t work, I didn’t go to school, but I had money and a lot of money all the time. Plus I traveled all the time and went wherever I wanted when I wanted. It was probably the most free time of my life but I ended up in the penitentiary. I don’t regret anything that I did. It was all a learning experience for me. I was addicted to the money, the drugs, and the power. When you are the man, as in drug dealer, it’s like being a rock star for real. It just kind of snowballed and I thought it would never end. It was one big party. Looking back, I was kind of naive and even stupid in a way. All my friends from high school graduated and went off to college. I would drive up and see them once or twice a month and sell drugs to them and all their friends. Colleges go through a lot of drugs. I could have saved some of that money. But when money flows into your hands like water it flows out of your hands like water too.
S.V. Did you learn anything about the effects of LSD ?
S.F. I took 75 hits of acid once. I ended up crawling down these steps backwards in Three Rivers Stadium after a Dead show because it was like a cliff to me. I loved acid. Not saying I would do it now. But acid was a great mind expander and helped you to look at things in a different way. I went a little overboard, but I was young and reckless and bold and brash. I was an LSD/marijuana outlaw and I lived the lifestyle accordingly.
S.V. You were dealing full time. How did you make those connections with supplier and user?
S.F. I made most of my connects through my godbrother and his circle of deadhead friends. I went on tour and made more contacts. The dead tours back then were full of drug dealers. The lot was like a drug bazaar. This was before the feds started cracking down on LSD dealers. It was really a different world. I just networked and jumped out there. You won’t make any connections if you don’t do that.
S.V. How did you get busted ?
S.F. I got busted by snitches. How else do people get busted for drugs now? With the ‘war on drugs,’ the feds enacted all these draconian laws and all they had to do was get people who were scared of prison to snitch. I refused to do that. I took off instead. But I was set up in a sting. A snitch named David Craigo set me up. He was a good friend from high school but when he got busted with a couple of sheets he decided to snitch instead of taking his weight and keeping his mouth shut. This led to a whole bunch of people’s lives being affected. I know you could say that about me and selling drugs, about all the people or addicts whose lives I affected, but that is the ‘war on drugs attitude.’ We live in a new world where marijuana is legal and LSD is being studied for medical benefits. I feel justified in my actions for real. I was right back then and I had to pay the price, like all the marijuana OG’s, so that we could enjoy the liberties that we enjoy now.
S.V. You fled – parking your car by the Potomac River near your house leaving behind an empty vodka bottle, a fake suicide note and your leather jacket. You went on the run how did you survive on the lam?
S.F. I had money so it was easy. I had fake ID. I was set up. I was a criminal. The only reason I got caught was because I started selling pot again and someone snitched on me again. Law enforcement nowadays doesn’t investigate anything. There are no Sherlock Holmes on the force. They get all their busts through snitches. That is what our criminal justice system has become. When you have ID and money it’s easy to hide. I was in California and then I went back to Texas when my money started running low and started running loads of weed up to Missouri. I got busted there when someone else snitched on me of course.
S.V. Do you miss getting high ?
S.F. I don’t miss getting high like an addict and having drugs being my everything like when I was young, but I smoke marijuana and I drink alcohol, although I’m not a very big drinker. But I would say I’m a functional stoner. I like to take time off. Getting stoned all the time is not cool. Not in my line of work. But it helps the creativity process.
S.V. Tell us about the first night in jail.
S.F. I cried when they first put me in jail. This was after I got caught and hauled in. I was facing 30 years and I was only 22. It seemed like my life was over. I ended up getting 25 and I never cried again. But when they first put me in that cell, alone because I was under observation, I cried and couldn’t believe that I let my life lead me to that point.
S.V. Tell us about your worst night in jail.
S.F. Every night in prison was the worst. You’re with a bunch of violent men that are capable of anything. You have to be on guard at all times. You can’t be nice or smile because the predators in there mistake kindness for weakness. You have to be on point and ready to go at all moments. So every night and day were the worst ones to me.
S.V. You turned criminality into creativity by writing poems, short stories and later, novels. What inspired you to become creative ?
S.F. I’ve always been creative. I used to sing and write songs in punk rock bands when I was young and play Dungeon and Dragons, and of course I was the Dungeon Master creating the worlds and characters. I turned inward in prison. I wanted to build something from in there, a career, and I did it through writing. It was poems, then articles, then features, then books and screenplays. A natural progression for me. It was the ambition that led to my creativity flowing. I needed to make my mark from inside there.
I was worried about myself really, so I wrote about it. I was crying out from inside to let people know what was going on. When you’re in prison doing decades for a first time non-violent offense you are just sitting in there like, “when the fuck are the people outside going to wake the fuck up.” By me exposing my situation and writing about it, it’s helped others for sure. Not that I set out to do that. But I do more of that now. Exposing what our corrupt government is doing.
S.V. But it wasn’t easy getting educated inside jail was it?
S.F. No. I fought battles to get my college education. In prison they say they are about rehabilitation but they’re not. There was so much red tape just to take correspondence courses. You’d think they would be happy I was getting an education and my parents were paying for it. But they made it difficult for me. Holding my college materials, not releasing them to me, lying to me, and just putting obstacles in my path as I tried to get my education. Which I got anyways despite them.
S.V. There has been a media out cry following the Miami Herald investigation into Florida’s Juvenile Justice System Fight Club revealing large-scale corruption, and sordid secrets of the Florida juvenile justice program. Staffers were setting up fights between inmates – surveillance videos show beatings, inappropriate behaviour, sex between staff and detainees, and a culture of silence and blanket denial. There were 12 suspicious deaths in the Florida juvenile system since 2000. How was your relationship with the guards when you were imprisoned ?
S.F. That really doesn’t surprise me. I still don’t like prison guards and when I see them I’d like to throttle them. They make money, their livelihood, off the misery of others. Some guys deserve to be in prison. Anybody who is repeatedly violent should be locked up. They have no place in society. But I was locked up with a bunch of non-violent drug offenders and the guards treated us like scum. Not to say I would ever attack or assault anyone but that is how I feel.
S.V. How do you feel about criticism that you‘re profiting from a criminal past and glorifying criminality for profit?
S.F. I tell cautionary tales. What I write about is about giving the other side. It’s about getting the side of the story that the mainstream media and law enforcement doesn’t get. It’s about humanizing the people that the media turns into monster. Is there some glorification or romanticization, yes. But to people who criticize that, fuck them. I’m here to tell stories. I started telling stories in prison and my most devout fans are prisoners. They are serving life. They are the guys that cheer for the bad guys. These are the men that love my writing. They like what I write and the content I cover. So I see it as opening a window to a world that people don’t normally see. It’s not glorification, it’s a cautionary tale, but I do romanticize in the telling.
S.V. When Joshua Boyle, kidnapped Canadian hostage, and his wife Caitlan Coleman were rescued from the Taliban after being held captive for five years he couldn’t believe Donald Trump was President what do you think of Trump and his stance on law and order – and how prisons should be reformed ?
S.F. I think Trump is good for America right now because he is waking the country the fuck up. We need to get more young people involved in politics. Congress should represent the people. Let’s get some different people in there. Let’s make it diverse. This country is a melting pot and the political spectrum should cover that. I’m white but these rich old white men in politics don’t represent me. Lets get them out of there. Trump is the key to this. He is waking up our country due to his antics and I believe our next president will be ground-breaking.
Prison should be about rehabilitation. People need to get the tools in prison that they can use on the street to get away from a life of crime. Without tools prisoners will re-offend. We need to offer inmates opportunities that include educational and vocational pursuits. When I was in I wanted to take stuff like photoshop and video editing but it wasn’t available and it should be.
S.V. You were barely 22 years old when you were imprisoned – 25 years and 4 months for running a criminal enterprise – no chance of parole. Living in a cell 6 x 10, slumming on a metal bunk bed, making 92 cents an hour working in the prison factory seven hours a day. Decades passed. And you hadn’t even used the internet. What was your first day of freedom like?
S.F. Freedom was great. I was shell-shocked yes. But it was a good shell-shock. The stores overwhelmed me. I went in a Walmart and it was like sensory overload. The tech was really challenging but I learned. Plus the last two years I was in I read books like Internet for Dummies and other guides like that to learn about the world I was walking into. But coming back into the world, after my long sabbatical, was awesome.
S.V. Looking towards the future and current projects can you tell us more about your movie Easter Bunny Assassin and you comic book venture Supreme Team? And you’ve produced the documentary White Boy?
S.F. Easter Bunny Assassin is an idea that I came up with in prison. I came home and executed shooting Season 1 of the web series which has 4 episodes. The first two are up on YouTube now. Check them out. It’s about a bunny that goes around with other crazy characters that I created by mashing up holiday figures with criminal types.
The Supreme Team and Confessions of a College Kingpin comics are nonfiction true crime comics. Supreme Team is based off my nonfiction book of the same title about the Queens crew that has gone down in hip-hop infamy. Kingpin is about my case and how I ended up a drug dealer and in prison. I think both comics are ground-breaking. I am bringing Grand Theft Auto to comics.
White Boy is a true story about Richard Wershe Junior ‘White Boy Rick,’ a legend of Detroit’s drug world in the 80’s. Charged with a non-violent juvenile offense in 1987 still behind bars – the film asks the question does Wershe’s punishment fit the crime? The NYC première is Friday November 10th: details at http://www.docnyc.net/film/white-boy/
S.V. Finally Seth Ferranti somebody makes you an offer you can’t refuse – what will you do – any nuggets of wisdom for any wannabe crimminarti out there?
S.F. I write for money that‘s what I do. I usually only get involved in projects that I’m passionate about so it’s not like I’m going to jump on anything. And no, I certainly wouldn’t go back to my old way of life. I think there is plenty of opportunity out there for people that write about true crime. I’m the type of guy that has standards and morals so it’s not like I’ll just do anything. But I like to work too. The biggest thing I can say is to keep working. Keep a lot of logs in the fire. Work hard and produce. At the end of the day it’s all about the execution.