John Willis And The Chinese Mafia: How A White Teen Became A Chinese Mafia Boss Called ‘The White Devil’

Tara West - Author

Jan. 3 2016, Updated 10:51 a.m. ET

John Willis was a troubled teen living along on the streets of Boston at the age of 16 after his mother passed away and his father left him. Willis, though only 16, used steroids to increase his size and passed himself off as 18. He was able to secure a job as a bouncer at a Boston nightclub due to his purported age and large size. This job would forever change the down-and-out teen’s life, as he would help a young Asian man during a club fight that would ultimately pave the way for him to enter the seedy Chinatown criminal underworld.

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John Willis would become the only white man to join the Chinese mafia and would rise in the ranks to the criminal organization’s number two spot. He would become the mafia boss’ right-hand man and was referred to in the Chinatown criminal scene as “the White Devil.” The unlikely Chinese mafia boss was first introduced to the mafia after he saved a young Asian man, known as Woping Joe, during a club fight. The steroid injecting teen stepped in to protect Woping Joe and was rewarded with a card from the Asian man with his contact information. Joe told John to call him if he ever needed any help.

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A few days later, John Willis found himself with just 76 cents to his name, no vehicle and no place to live. Therefore, he made a phone call to Woping Joe requesting a ride. Shortly after the call, Willis says two BMWs pulled up to his location, each filled with young Asian men. Willis got in the car and the rest is history.

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The Daily Mail notes that after getting into the vehicle, Willis was taken to live with some of the Ping On gang members and the group was quickly taken aback by the young man’s zeal and ability to learn. Willis quickly picked up the Chinese language in two different dialects: Cantonese and Toisanese. He also quickly learned Vietnamese. Willis says he learned the language by listening to others in the gang speak to one another, along with watching Chinese movies and listening to Chinese music.

After learning the language, Willis helped the gang by operating as a small loan collector. He would collect from debtors to the Ping On gang and ensure that the Chinese mafia was never left unpaid. According to Rolling Stone, Willis quickly moved up in rank as he viewed the gang as his family.

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“These people took me in, took care of me, like, you know, I was their brother, their son. So that became more important to me than anything else.”

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Therefore, when the group asked him to move to New York City to Chinatown, he did not hesitate. Willis would go to New York where he was fully transformed into a Ping On gang member. He would later return to Boston and operate as chief bodyguard to Bai Ming, a high up in the chain of command in Boston’s Chinese mafia.

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Eventually, after a number of murders and arrests, Bai Ming found himself in the position of the mafia’s number one position. Therefore, as chief bodyguard, John Willis was the second most powerful person in the Ping On gang. Willis would be the only white man to ever work his way through the ranks of the Chinese mafia and would later begin a million dollar drug cartel. He was introduced by the gang to his beautiful Vietnamese girlfriend and seemed to finally have the life he had always wanted. However, Willis wouldn’t get his happy ending.

In 2013, Willis would be arrested for drug trafficking and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He is now serving his sentence in federal prison and says that his only regret is not being able to see his beautiful girlfriend everyday. While behind bars, Willis has been interviewed for the book White Devil: The True Story Of The First White Asian Crime Boss.

[Image via Mugshot by BenBella Books Twitter]


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