Heroin kingpin protected his drug empire with ruthless violence. He faces up to life in prison
Federal prosecutors say David Price’s body tells the story of his life — from the tattoo covering his face that says “Neighborhood Bully” to the pictures of his children tattooed on his back just above the tat showing him with guns blazing in each hand, by the words “God Forgives, I Don’t.”
He lived by those words, prosecutors allege, shooting a longtime friend in front of the man’s 3-year-old daughter for cooperating with the feds, ordering hits on other “rats” and even threatening to kill his own father when he refused to continue to launder drug money.
Price, nicknamed “Shorty” and “Hot Sauce,” acted ruthlessly to protect a lucrative drug empire that supplied heroin to open-air drug markets on Chicago’s West Side for seven years, prosecutors said.
The profits enabled Price to live lavishly, buying luxury homes, including a downtown high-rise apartment; driving a Corvette and a custom Harley-Davidson motorcycle; and owning a $35,000 watch encrusted with more than 1,000 diamonds, according to prosecutors. Price even named his son after Louis Vuitton, his favorite luxury clothing brand, authorities said.
On Thursday, more than three years after his conviction on 13 money laundering, drug, conspiracy and weapons counts, Price, 38, faces up to life in prison as his sentencing hearing continues into a second day in U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber’s courtroom.
Lawyers put on evidence and argued for hours Wednesday over whether Price should be held responsible for the killing of longtime friend Gregory Holden after Holden helped out authorities — an allegation Price was not charged with or convicted on.
Prosecutors said federal sentencing guidelines for Price were “literally off the chart” because of the massive amount of heroin he supplied — at least 198 pounds — as well as for his alleged use of violence and threats of violence.
But Price’s attorney, Beau Brindley, aggressively cross-examined prosecution witnesses in an effort to cast doubt on Price’s involvement in Holden’s slaying.
Outside the courtroom, Price’s father, David Sr., who cooperated with the feds and testified against his son at trial, criticized the prosecution attempt to portray his son as a murderer, calling the evidence “hearsay.”
He also downplayed his son’s drug dealing and said he’d be facing a lesser sentence if he were white.
“He ain’t no kingpin,” his father said.
Prosecutors alleged that Price, to protect his highly profitable heroin empire, lashed out at any threats, singling out in particular several former friends who cooperated with law enforcement.
Beginning in January 2008, Price ordered the killing of co-conspirator James “Hershey” Brown after he suspected he was assisting police, according to prosecutors. But two of Price’s associates botched the shooting, wounding Brown in the legs, authorities said.
At trial, government witness Joenathan Penson, testified he heard an upset Price the next day say he should have carried out the killing himself, calling the two gunmen “amateurs” and “leg shooters.”
Penson said he believed Price told him of the failed murder attempt to intimidate him “if I ever had any thoughts about talking to the police.”
When Penson’s later cooperation became public, Price’s crew members used social media to label him a “snitch” and warn that “snitches get stitches,” prosecutors said.
Nearly four years later, Price took matters into his own hands, prosecutors alleged, after law enforcement conducted a search of his residence in October 2011, leading him to suspect that Holden was cooperating with authorities.
Two months later, Price and an undisclosed accomplice drove his girlfriend’s vehicle to Holden’s apartment in suburban Woodridge, prosecutors alleged. The two waited for Holden’s longtime partner to leave for work before breaking into the apartment, they said. The two shot Holden more than 20 times in front of his youngest daughter as his older daughter, 7, home sick from school, slept in her parents’ bedroom, according to prosecutors.
After some time, the 7-year-old girl was able to call her grandmother, who notified police.
Holden, a drug dealer, had recently been arrested by Drug Enforcement Administration agents and was cooperating against Price. Shortly before his slaying, he had told his partner that he’d heard Price had offered $25,000 for his hit but found it hard to believe because of their long friendship, according to prosecutors.
At about that same time, prosecutors alleged, Price attempted to locate and kill a close, longtime friend whom he also suspected of turning against him — Mokece Lee, who had a child with Price’s sister and was considered like family. But Price was unable to find Lee because authorities had moved him to a secure location immediately after Holden’s killing, prosecutors said.
“Had the government not taken those actions, Lee may not be alive today,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing last week.
According to prosecutors, Price’s father had helped out his son for many years by using his good name and credit to launder drug profits. The father also acted as a nominee for Price to buy the Corvette and a luxury house in Country Club Hills as well as renting cars for him in his name that Price used to evade police, authorities said.
But their relationship soured in fall 2011 when Price failed to return a rented Ford SUV on time, the father testified at his son’s trial. The elder Price refused to launder money any longer, causing Price to go “ballistic” and threaten to kill his father and burn down his house, according to prosecutors.
The father reported the threat to law enforcement and began to cooperate with the federal investigation of his son.
In addition to the threats and violence, prosecutors said, Price broke a girlfriend’s jaw and gave her a black eye after arguing over a day care bill for their son in 2008.
Prosecutors said Price used false identities to obtain leases at residences in Darien, Lombard, Bolingbrook and Brookfield, moving from place to place to avoid detection.
Before his arrest in August 2012, prosecutors alleged, he kept an Uzi-style semi-automatic firearm with a loaded extended magazine, two 9 mm pistols he called “the twins” and other weapons.
Prosecutors said Price “wallpapered” his body with numerous tattoos that glorified violence and reflected his obsession with money.
Around the time that he was alleged to have killed Holden, Price obtained what prosecutors called “chilling tattoos about killing ‘rats,’ preferring death to capture and depicting himself wielding guns with the words, ‘God Forgives, I Don’t.'”