Landlord Problems: Illinois Dem Pays Thousands in Rent to Cocaine-Pushing Butcher

Rep. Danny K. Davis rents his Chicago office from a convicted drug pusher

Rep. Danny K. Davis (D., Ill.) and cocaine / Getty Images and Wikimedia Commons
August 16, 2022

Rep. Danny K. Davis (D., Ill.) rents his district office from a convicted cocaine dealer who was once affiliated with a Chicago drug ring, according to documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Since January 2017, Davis's campaign account has cut regular $600 checks for "office rent" to Mario's Butcher Shop, FEC records show. The shop, which is registered as a corporation with the state, lists Mariano "Mario" Lettieri and his wife as the sole members of its board of directors and was at the center of Lettieri's 1990 conviction for drug trafficking.

Lettieri, whom the Chicago Tribune described as "reputedly tied" to a "crime syndicate," was sentenced to nearly 16 years in prison after authorities identified him as the primary supplier of cocaine to a major Chicago drug ring led by an ex-cop. The Drug Enforcement Administration reported that Lettieri trafficked as much as 80 pounds of cocaine over a six-month period. Lettieri also allowed heroin to be packaged in his butcher shop's boiler room and used "rib-eye steaks" as a code word when discussing drug prices.

Lettieri is an odd landlord for Davis, who has long championed efforts to fight drug abuse. Davis in 2006 called for $4 million in emergency aid funds to be allocated to Cook County to address the growing heroin problem in the area. Last year, Davis announced that he had formed a coalition of drug prevention organizations in Chicago to help address the growing opioid crisis. He told the local press that "there is no part of Chicago that is worse hit than the West Side." The West Side of Chicago is where Lettieri ran his drug operation in the 1980s.

Tumia Romero, Davis's chief of staff, would not directly address the congressman's payments to Lettieri but told the Free Beacon that Davis believes in giving people "second chances."

Davis is no stranger to controversy. In 2005, he took a trip to Sri Lanka funded by the Tamil Tigers, an ethnic terrorist group from that country. He is a close ally of noted anti-Semite and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and once participated in a religious ceremony with Sun Myung Moon, the leader of the controversial Unification Church. Moon, who died in 2012, was a convicted felon who said Jews deserved the Holocaust.

The congressman also attended the 2012 dedication of the Church of Scientology's Washington, D.C., lobbying office.

Davis, who faced a tough primary challenge this cycle, was boosted by an endorsement from President Joe Biden. The longtime congressman won his primary by single digits and is now expected to coast to reelection in November.

Reached for comment, a Mario's Butcher Shop employee said he would relay the Free Beacon's inquiry to the establishment's owner.