The Million-Dollar Jackpot

A Brooklyn dope dealer hid it in a closet. A robbery crew found it. One gangster got screwdrivered to death. Another one just got screwed.

Word started circulating in certain nefarious circles in Brooklyn in early 2006 that 40-year-old John Allen Davis was a mere shell of his former dope-dealing self, having been hospitalized with bacterial meningitis for a month and spending more than a week of that in a coma. One of his eyes was partially closed, he could hardly hear, and he needed help just to walk. He was "food," robbers were saying, ripe for the picking.

On January 19, 2006, some robbers recruited a big thug named Derrick Gordon and laid out a plan to satisfy their hunger. "They tellin' me they got a food," Gordon later told investigators. "They tellin' me they got a drug dealer with a hundred thousand at the house. Whatever, whatever. They say it's going to be easy. He just gonna give it up."

But the next day, when Gordon and a gun-wielding pal confronted Davis inside a Flatbush apartment, Davis fought like a trapped animal. Gordon had four inches and more than 100 pounds on him, but Davis succumbed only after the butt of a gun smashed his nose and a screwdriver poked holes in his head and lungs.

Even after the ferocious battle ended and Davis was dying, there was still much risky work afoot for Gordon. According Gordon's own statement to cops, he held four hostages at gunpoint while his cohorts searched for Davis's stash in his girlfriend's house down the street. Finally, after 30 tense minutes, Gordon's pals called to give him the clear-out signal.

The payoff wasn't immediate—the guys who recruited Gordon for the job told him that Davis had placed a "voodoo" curse on the money and that it had to be "washed" first. Gordon didn't believe in that shit, but what could he do but wait? He eventually got his cut: a sweet $15,000. Not bad for a guy making $10 an hour doing deliveries for Fresh Direct. Though it may not have exactly been easy come, the 15 large was easy go.

"Blew it up on anything, partying, having a good time," he recalled. "It took me about two weeks."

It was only three months later, as he sat in the squad room of the 63rd Precinct and listened to two detectives lay out the case against him, that Gordon realized how his partners in crime had screwed him—"royally," as his attorney put it.

While Gordon was doing the dirty work, his friends had found two duffel bags in an unlocked closet in the house of Davis's girlfriend. Inside the bags were 10 bundles wrapped carefully in black garbage bags and then encased in clear plastic wrap. Each bundle contained $100,000, making it a cool $1 million that the robbers had whisked out of the closet.

Nearly two years later, with Gordon now convicted of robbery, authorities still have no idea what happened to the million bucks—except for Gordon's $15,000, which he no longer thinks is so sweet.

Exactly how John Davis became a millionaire remains somewhat of a mystery. When asked by the Voice if the family would talk about Davis's life, one of his brothers politely replied, "Never."

Cops and prosecutors say they can't explain exactly how Davis, whose rap sheet contained a single drug conviction for which he served less than two years, had socked away $1 million. Pittsburgh attorney Bill Difenderfer, who was Davis's lawyer for that lone drug case, chuckles as he gives the obvious answer: "I can tell you: He sold a lot of drugs."

Much of the tale has unfolded during the past six weeks on the 21st floor of Kings County Supreme Court, where Gordon—the only member of the robbery crew who has ever been caught—stood trial for Davis's death.

Davis's girlfriend, Tara MacGregor, now 32 and working for a stock brokerage, testified she knew that Davis sold marijuana but thought he had stopped dealing drugs after getting out of jail in 2000. She said she thought he worked construction and, more recently, had started dabbling in real estate. Gordon's attorney, Barry Krinsky, ridiculed MacGregor's claim by asking how someone supposedly working construction could afford to buy both a $600,000 three-residence house on East 55th Street in Brooklyn and an apartment building in Pittsburgh, as Davis did in the fall of 2005. Krinsky claimed that Davis's burgeoning real-estate career was just a way to launder money from his continuing drug dealing.

Davis had a bigger rep while living in Pittsburgh in the '90s than he ever did in Brooklyn. He was connected with some of the Iron City's biggest drug dealers. That association was put on ice on June 11, 1998, when a man named Roderick "Wolfdog" Thornhill set up a deal to buy crack from Davis in Pittsburgh's Shadyside neighborhood. Using the alias "Michael Brian White," Davis was arrested after showing up with his three-year-old son in the front seat of his Toyota Camry and a half-kilogram of crack in a grocery bag in the back. Wolfdog had set Davis up for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to whittle down the time he faced after getting pinched selling heroin.

Wolfdog was intimately connected to Pittsburgh's circle of dealers and snitched on some of the city's heaviest hitters, including Terrance Cole, recently described by a newspaper there as "the biggest cocaine kingpin in Western Pennsylvania history." Nicknamed "The Boss" and "Big Head," Cole was known to fancy $2,000 blue alligator shoes and socialize with celebrities. Last year, after Cole was convicted of racketeering charges and sent away for life, drug agents discovered $2.2 million in a suitcase hidden in his girlfriend's closet.

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