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.

Federal prosecutors arguing for a sentence reduction for Wolfdog in 2000 outlined some of the drug dealers he helped take down. Included on Wolfdog's hit list with Cole and other narco bigwigs was Davis, whom the officials described in court papers as "a well known city trafficker."

According to court records, Davis pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute crack in August 1998 and signed a cooperation agreement. There is no mention of what type of assistance he provided to law-enforcement agencies, if any.

He was released in April 2000 on probation after serving 22 months. If Davis continued in the drug business after his release from prison, the cops never caught him at it again. Within a year, he was trying to finagle an early-probation transfer to Brooklyn. According to probation records, Davis listed himself as a "talent scout" in the music industry and claimed that returning to New York was a necessary career move. Pittsburgh probation authorities found "very little documentation of legitimate employment or efforts to obtain employment" and turned down several requests before finally agreeing. In December 2004, his probation case was finally transferred and he moved in with his mother in Flatbush.

There, he resumed his relationship with Tara MacGregor, whom he had first met in 1991, when she was 15 and he was 25. Their on-and-off relationship was in the off mode in November 2005, she testified, when one of Davis's friends stuck a note in her mailbox: John Davis was in the hospital. MacGregor called Davis's mother, confirmed his condition, and rushed to Downstate Hospital. Not only was he sick with bacterial meningitis, he was in a coma. He regained consciousness after a week but remained hospitalized for more than a month. MacGregor said she visited him every day. Two weeks before Christmas that year, doctors cleared Davis to go home, but he was a mess. MacGregor tallied the damage: "Memory loss, couldn't hear, his right eye was closed, and he couldn't feel anything from the waist down."

She said she settled into a routine of going to the home of Davis's mother every evening to take care of her boyfriend. And then one night, she recalled, Davis turned to her while lying in bed and said, "I know I have a lot of money somewhere. I just don't remember where it is."

She had heard him brag of having a large stash of money, but, according to MacGregor, he never told her how much. She said she told him that night, "You've just got to try to remember where it is." For the next couple of hours, she said, Davis lay in bed just staring off into space, while MacGregor drifted off. Then it hit him. He shook her awake and said, "Come with me." In the middle of the night, they quietly padded into his mother's basement. Davis overturned an ottoman. Inside was the meticulously wrapped million bucks.

It was four in the morning, MacGregor recalled, but Davis told her to immediately drive the money to her house, some 15 blocks away, because he didn't trust keeping it at his mother's anymore. The next day he moved in with MacGregor and stashed a .40-caliber handgun under her bed.

Less than three weeks later, on January 19, 2006, 28-year-old Derrick Gordon was at his girlfriend's Brownsville apartment when he got a call from two of his childhood friends, "Trims" and "Feda." The duo, whose real names he claims not to know, came over about 20 minutes later and told him about the "food"—the tasty John Davis: "The guy, he got 100 grand in the crib."

The mastermind behind the scheme, Gordon was told, was a mystery man who had done drug deals with Davis in the past. Gordon referred to him only as "the old guy" or the "big dude" and said he knew nothing else about him except he had given orders that he wanted Davis's Rolex.

In recent weeks, Davis had apparently come under secret surveillance—not by cops but by gangsters. Feda told Gordon that Davis came out of his girlfriend's home at 1220 East 55th Street every morning around eight o'clock and went to a two-story attached wood/brick home he had recently bought on the same block to let in the workers who were renovating it. Perfect setup for a robbery. "They basically said it was a walk-in, walk-out job," Gordon said.

The next morning at eight, Davis and Tara MacGregor emerged from her house, drove off in Davis's Lexus to grab some coffee and hot chocolate at a Dunkin' Donuts, and then returned to meet the workers at his new home at 1188 East 55th Street.

The robbers had been told to confront Davis before he went inside—"They say he's paranoid and there's no way we're going to catch him unless we grab him [outside]," Gordon explained—but they missed their chance.

A worker emerged to get supplies and left the door ajar, but the robbers hesitated and the worker returned and pulled the door shut behind him. But a few minutes later, MacGregor left the apartment, got in the Lexus, and drove off. (Later, she tearfully testified that she left because she'd run out of vacuum-cleaner bags.)

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