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Laundering at Murder Inc.

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We mentioned back in January that hot rap label Murder Inc., partly owned by Universal, was under investigation for “murder, money-laundering, gun charges and a variety of strong-arm tactics,” none of which is nice. Court documents into the investigation were unsealed last week:

    The document, filed in January in Brooklyn federal court by an Internal Revenue Service special agent, alleges that convicted drug dealer Kenneth McGriff, who was released from prison in 1995, has returned to the drug business, laundering his drug profits through Murder Inc., a record label that is home to acts like Ja Rule and Ashanti.

    The affidavit said the label paid McGriff back under aliases. Lawyers for Murder Inc. said the company believes the allegations are unfounded. McGriff’s lawyer also called the allegations untrue,

    Murder Inc’s partner, Island Def Jam, a division of Vivendi Universal’s Universal Music Group, declined comment.

    ….Investigators allege that once freed in 1995, McGriff got involved in several high-profile shootings, including the shooting of rapper 50 Cent, who had been feuding with Murder Inc. executives and artists, including Ja Rule.

    The affidavit also states that text messages transmitted on a two-way pager used by McGriff and paid for by Murder Inc, confirms extensive narcotics trafficking and cites evidence linking him to a narcotics-related double homicide.

    ….McGriff’s lawyer, Robert Simels, said the affidavit contains a lot of allegations, but not enough proof to enable federal authorities to charge McGriff or anybody else.

    ….”If the government had any proof, I guess he (McGriff) and the people they claim he was associated with would be charged with criminal conduct,” Simels said, adding, “But I don’t think there’s any evidence.”

    ….The probe has also focused on the relationship between McGriff and long-time friend, record producer Irv Gotti, the founder of Murder Inc. Gotti’s real name is Irving Lorenzo.

    The affidavit said subpoenaed hotel records show that Murder Inc. paid for McGriff’s hotel stays in Texas in late November and December, including $1,200 limousine rides to the Beaumont prison facility where he visited Gerald Miller, an alleged prominent member of McGriff’s drug operation.

    The affidavit says Miller is being investigated because guards repeatedly cite a sharp rise in heroin in the prison, coinciding with McGriff’s visits.

    The affadavit also says that Murder Inc. used McGriff’s reputation for violence and witness intimidation to scare people in the music industry and extort a “prominent music executive from another company.” [Reuters]

It’s a lot easier to make it in the tough record biz when your revenue streams include drug profits and extortion of rivals; the threat of violence makes negotiations go more smoothly as well. With a name like “Murder Inc.,” they weren’t trying to fool anyone.

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