The world of guns, drugs and money so celebrated in many rap lyrics and videos sprang to life during a midday shoot-out at Third and Spring Garden Streets last year.
Front and center: three wanna-be rappers and two tow-truck drivers. Backstage: the FBI.
The prize: $852,000 in cold, hard cash - booty the rappers and FBI believed belonged to a Philadelphia drug kingpin.
The cash was jammed into the jury-rigged gas tanks of a Mercedes S500 and a Mercedes 420 SEL - luxury cars being hauled up Spring Garden by two tow trucks.
For months, Fernando "Dough Boy" Sanchez had been plotting to grab the cash. The Bronx man recruited another New Yorker and RAM Squad's Chad "Ra-Tek" Johnson to help pull it off.
Sanchez, who began cooperating with authorities last year, laid out the scam in testimony to a federal grand jury in 2002. He said he began to devise the scheme while serving time for attempted murder in a New York prison. A cousin on the outside had told him that a big drug dealer in Philadelphia stashed cocaine or cash in his luxury cars.
The cars were in a rented storage garage.
After Sanchez got out of jail, he moved to Philadelphia and insinuated himself into the drug dealer's inner circle. His plan was to grab the cash and head to Florida for a new life.
"OK. So you got his trust?" U.S. Attorney Anita D. Eve said.
Eve: "But you still intended to rip him off?"
Sanchez: "Of course. That was my whole exit out of the game, you know, out of everything."
On April 8, 2002, Sanchez sent an associate to break into the rented garage at Oakland and Foulkrod Streets in the city's Frankford section. Using a blowtorch, the associate popped the locks on several of the wrong garages before locating the two Mercedes Benzes.
The next day, according to plan, Sanchez, 28, showed up with Jimmy "Yusef" Brown, 27, and Johnson, 27, intending to steal the cars and tow them to New York.
When they got there, however, the cars were already hitched to tow trucks.
Sanchez suspected the kingpin had caught on to the plot. He and his partners discreetly followed a convoy that pulled out of the garage that afternoon. They headed down Interstate 95 in a green minivan to the Callowhill Street exit into Northern Liberties.
When the lead truck stopped at a red light at Third, Sanchez decided it was time to move in.
The minivan pulled in front of the first tow truck. Sanchez, with a gun on his waist, got out and ordered the lead driver to unhitch the cars.
The driver responded with unexpected news.
"He told me that he was moving them for the FBI or the CIA or something," Sanchez said. "I couldn't really hear him because the window was so high - he had the window halfway. But still and all, I looked at him and I said, 'C'mon . . . ."
Like Sanchez, the FBI had learned of the kingpin's stash. And like Sanchez, the authorities had set a plan in motion to get it.
They, however, used a court-authorized search warrant.
An FBI car had, in fact, been leading the convoy the entire way but had gone through the light at Third Street, leaving the tow trucks behind.
Sanchez and his team were unaware of this, so when the lead driver continued to refuse to unload the cars, Sanchez hurled obscenities and ordered that the cars be unlatched.
Meanwhile Johnson, unarmed, ordered the second truck driver to do the same, according to the criminal complaint in the case. Brown stayed in the minivan.
Sanchez attempted to open the passenger door of the first truck and the shooting began.
The driver, a civilian hired by the FBI, shot Sanchez in the shoulder.
Sanchez ducked behind the first truck and opened fire on both drivers. Johnson fled.
The second driver's hand was shattered by gunfire. Another bullet struck a bystander.
Sanchez and Brown fled to New York. They were arrested at a hospital after