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Hip-Hop News: Government Pressure on Inc.
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Posted by Robert
Rap News Network
12/3/2004 9:27:57 AM

Tags and topics realted to this article include Irv Gotti.

It was just before dawn on a crisp November morning, when federal agents converged on a two-story home in suburban Maplewood, N.J., and woke up Cynthia Brent.

They told her to get dressed for court. Brent, a soft-spoken accountant for the hip-hop rap label The Inc., was facing charges of laundering more than $1 million in drug money.

Over the next eight days, a team of federal and local agents swept from New Jersey to Queens to Manhattan, making arrests in a probe linking one of rap music's hottest labels to one of New York's most notorious gangsters.

After filing charges against seven suspects, including the manager for rap star Ja Rule, federal prosecutors appear to be closing in on their ultimate targets: The Inc. founder Irv "Gotti" Lorenzo and convicted crack kingpin Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff.

The prosecutors have declined to discuss the case. But defense attorneys and law enforcement officials said Brent, Ja Rule manager Ron "Gutta" Robinson and two alleged McGriff associates are under pressure by the government to provide information about the rap mogul and the convicted drug kingpin.

The arrests signal that the investigation, after a yearlong lull, is "gaining momentum," said one of the law enforcement officials, all of whom spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Longtime friends from rough sections of South Queens, Gotti and McGriff are suspected of laundering money from McGriff's cocaine and heroin operation through Gotti's platinum-selling label, according to court documents filed in support of search and property seizure warrants.

McGriff, 44, the founder of one of the city's most violent drug crews, allegedly returned to his old ways when he was released from prison in 1997. He had served about nine years for drug conspiracy.

A police official said investigators believe that once free, McGriff set about reviving his drug-dealing operation on his old turf in the 103rd Precinct. They also suspect he and his associates could be responsible for a dramatic rise in homicides there, the official said.

The number of killings in the precinct defied a downward trend citywide last year by rising to 29, compared to just 13 a year earlier. So far this year _ with McGriff behind bars for a minor gun possession conviction _ killings total 16.

Court documents tie McGriff to the 2001 revenge slaying of up-and-coming rapper E-Money Bags in Queens and the Baltimore killing one month later of an informant in his drug organization. The law-enforcement sources also said a security camera captured a luxury sport utility vehicle linked to McGriff dropping off another shooting victim's body at a Queens hospital in 1999.

McGriff hasn't been charged in any of the killings, and he's denied any wrongdoing. His defense attorney said his client has become a scapegoat for unsolved murders based solely on his criminal history as head of a former gang known as the Supreme Team.

"I think he's a convenient person to point to because of the lore of the street," said the attorney, Robert Simels, referring to the gang's reputation in rap circles.

"Yo, when you here talk of the south side, you hear talk of the team," rapper 50 Cent says in one song. "See (people) ... respected 'Preme."

As for Gotti and his associates, they say they're proud of their friendship with McGriff.

"That's like my brother, I love this boy," Ja Rule said when asked about McGriff in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

The Inc. says it has sold more than 20 million albums since it was founded as Murder Inc. in 1997. Gotti changed its name this year to deflect negative publicity from the investigation. Its new track "Wonderful," featuring Ja Rule and Ashanti, is the second-hottest hip-hop single in the country.

Gerald Lefcourt, Gotti's attorney, insists The I

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