From today’s Morning Edition:
Less well-known, though, is the case of John Willis, a white man from Dorchester, Mass., who was on Thursday to 20 years in prison for drug trafficking and money laundering.
Willis masterminded an organized crime group that distributed and sold hundreds of thousands of oxycodone pills, according to prosecutors.
What made Willis such an unusual criminal, however, was his unlikely rise as a white man through the criminal underworld of Boston's Chinatown.
Doors Opened For The 'White Devil'
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Moran has a binder of court documents with a label "White Devil," named after Willis' Cantonese nickname, "Bac Guai John" — "White Devil John." ("Bac guai" is often used as a pejorative term to describe white people in the Chinese dialect of Cantonese.)
The man known as White Devil John was born into a white family. Willis lost both his mother and older brother as a teenager, according to his defense attorney, Jeffrey Denner. He was homeless until a local Chinese family took him in as one of their own. They taught him to speak both Cantonese and Toisanese dialects of Chinese and Vietnamese — language skills that helped a white man navigate Chinatown's immigrant enclave and gain access to its organized gangs.
If you’re wondering, a movie is already in the works.
Read and listen to Hansi Lo Wang’s story, Chinatown’s ‘White Devil John’ Sentenced to 20 Years, at NPR.org.
Drawing by Jane Collins, courtesy of NPR.