CHICAGO (STMW) -- David "Big Dave" Lewisbey's only legitimate source of income was a part-time job at Home Depot.
But the 23-year-old former Thornton Township High School offensive lineman has a novel excuse for how he got the wads of $100 bills he brandished in Facebook photos, his luxury cars and his cache of more than 100 weapons, including assault rifles and submachine guns.
"I made nearly all my money selling weed," Lewisbey testified with a smile in federal court this week. "I'm a gun collector."
The feds might normally be delighted to hear a defendant admit to selling up to 50 pounds of marijuana a week.
Lewisbey isn't facing drug charges, though — he's accused of making a small fortune by illegally supplying the guns that fuel Chicago's deadly gang violence.
And he hopes his unusual trust-me-I'm-a-drug-dealer defense will allow him to walk free at the end of his jury trial.
Prosecutors say he took advantage of Indiana's lax gun laws to buy duffel bags full of guns that he later sold in some of Chicago's most dangerous neighborhoods.
Private sales between collectors in Indiana don't require a background check, a waiting period, or paperwork -- making gun shows there attractive to criminals looking to get around Illinois' stricter gun control, authorities say.
Cellphone records from a weekend in April 2010 show Lewisbey making multiple trips back and forth between gun shows in Indiana and Chicago, where prosecutors say he and an accomplice made $38,000 selling more than 40 guns.
But Lewisbey, who spent Monday afternoon and all day Tuesday on the stand, said he only bought guns "to enhance my personal collection" and as a favor to an old pal, because he knew how to get a good deal.
"I can't even remember all the guns I have," he said.
He testified that he often traveled to homes in South Holland and Indiana from Texas, where he was studying, to sell drugs, not guns.
A series of his coded Facebook chats, text massages, rap lyrics and iPhone memos, which the government says describe his illegal gun business, actually refer to marijuana sales, he said.
In one message, for example, a potential customer asked for "toys" for a motorcycle gang member who was in trouble. Prosecutors allege that was a clear reference to a gun, but Lewisbey said it was a reference to "Girl Scout Toys" — a popular strain of marijuana.
He said he enjoyed hunting and hoped for a career in hotel management.
That set up a heated exchange with assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Parente.
"Let me get this straight," Parente began his cross-examination of Lewisbey. "You're a drug-dealing gun collector who enjoys hunting with your family, who likes living in multiple states and who has an interest in hotel management?"
"Yes," Lewisbey replied.
Lewisbey later testified that he had buried most of his money at secret locations.
"Like a pirate?" Parente asked.
Jurors — who cracked up at that and other barbs from Parente — will hear further testimony when the trial continues Wednesday.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
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