LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — In the 1980s and early 90s, Jemeker Thompson-Hairston was one of the biggest drug dealers in Los Angeles. Seven years after her release from prison, she has turned her life around, founding a ministry and detailing her journey from drugs and money laundering to community and faith in a new memoir, “Queen Pin”.
As a student at Alexander Hamilton High School, Thompson-Hairston was introduced to the drug trade by local dealer Anthony “Daff” Mosely, a “big time gambler and a drug dealer ” whom she would later marry. She began selling drugs in her teens on the corner of 12th Street and Venice Boulevard.
By the time she completed high school, Thompson-Hairston had graduated to selling cocaine. She started dealing small amounts and eventually grew to selling hundreds of units of the drug, which according to Thompson-Hairston sold for between $40,000 and $50,000.
“The more I sold, the more I wanted to sell. The more money I made, the more money I wanted,” Thompson-Hairston told CBS2′s Rick Garcia. ”It was all about the money.”
The couple lived a lavish lifestyle, complete with expensive cars. But when Thompson’s husband was murdered in 1984, the price of that lifestyle became clear.
“That was one of the worst days of my life,” said Thompson-Hairston. “I thought my world had just ended.”
But despite the trauma of her husband’s death and the increasingly violent drug world, Thompson-Hairston didn’t retreat from her dangerous way of life.
Of the risks, Thompson-Hairston said it didn’t concern her at the time. “Because I was all about getting my money. And that was my life.”
But as time wore on, Thompson-Hairston began to look for a way out. She started a business selling imported hair, which offered her a way to earn an honest income and even rub elbows with celebrities.
But by this point law enforcement was on her trail, and she was taken into custody by the FBI at her son’s elementary school graduation.
“I can imagine what he felt like to see his mother be in handcuffs,” Thompson-Hairston said. “That was very painful, even to this day.”
“That’s one moment that you can’t take back.”
Thompson-Hairston ended up serving 12 years behind bars, where she discovered her faith. She began to read the Bible and pray daily, often with other inmates, and said she helped encourage others to find strength through God. After she was released in 2005, she went on to found Second Chance Evangelical Ministry.
As for those who might question her journey to religion, Thompson-Hairston acknowledges that some might be skeptical.
“When I was in jail, a lot of people would say, you know, I was doing that because I was in jail,” said Thompson. “But I’ve been free seven years.”
Thompson continues to speak about her faith, believing that religion has allowed her to make amends to a community she once profited from by harming.
“I know that I hurt a lot of people and I know I destroyed a lot of lives,” said Thompson-Hairston.
“I thank God that I have a second chance, that I can go back to the community and give back you know, something that I took away from the community.”
For more on Thompson-Hairston’s journey and ministry, visit her website.