The prosecution in the money-laundering trial against Irv "Gotti" Lorenzo, CEO of the Inc. (Ja Rule, Ashanti), and brother Christopher rested on Monday in Brooklyn federal court. The Lorenzos are charged with laundering more than $1 million in drug money -- allegedly brought in by convicted Queens crack dealer Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff -- through the label.
While the prosecution has argued that the brothers regularly accepted cash from McGriff and his associates, the defense has denied the laundering charges, portraying the Inc.'s ties to McGriff as more informal. "It made sense to work with [McGriff] because he provided a certain street credibility," the Lorenzos' lawyer stated, according to reports. "He also provided a deterrence to shakedown artists and thugs."
According to the charges -- the result of a three-year federal investigation involving the FBI, IRS, and New York and Baltimore city police -- the Inc. was part of a crack and heroin business run by McGriff. McGriff, a founder of the "Supreme Team" drug gang currently in prison on a gun charge, finished serving nine years for drug conspiracy in 1997. The Inc. was founded under the name Murder Inc. that same year. The Lorenzos' lawyer has stated that the Inc. is financed through cash from Island Def Jam.
The defense took a blow early on in the trial, when the prosecution called a former Inc. intern who testified that he witnessed $70,000 in small bills being delivered to the Inc. offices in a shoebox. In addition, in a prior search of Inc. offices, authorities discovered $35,000 in cash in a shopping bag in Christopher Lorenzo's safe. Financial records from the label also prove that McGriff was on the payroll, and the drug dealer charged more than $50,000 in travel expenses to Christopher Lorenzo's credit card.
In a controversial turn last week, the government introduced a former McGriff associate as a witness in an attempt to prove a link between the label and the 2000 shooting of superstar rapper 50 Cent, a rival of Inc. star Ja Rule. However, the testimony was eventually deemed inadmissible.
The defense begins making its case Tuesday. Summations are expected to take place as early as Wednesday.
If convicted, Gotti and his brother face up to twenty years in prison.
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