The federal case against Irv Gotti’s Def Jam-affiliated Inc. label (formerly Murder Inc.) is gaining steam. Yesterday, twenty-nine-year-old Ron “Gutta” Robinson, the manager of the label’s star rapper Ja Rule, was arrested on charges of conspiring to launder over $1 million in drug-related money between 1997 and 2002. Robinson was released on a $500,000 bond, and his attorney has vowed to fight the charges.
On November 8th, the Inc.’s bookkeeper, Cynthia Brent, was indicted by federal prosecutors on similar charges. Brent pleaded not guilty, and was released on $200,000 bond.
Authorities have been investigating allegations that Murder Inc. had been laundering drug money from Gotti associate and Queens crack dealer Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff of drug gang the “Supreme Team.” McGriff, who was the co-author and co-producer of the straight-to-DVD Murder Inc. movie Crime Partners 2000, spent ten years in prison on federal charges of narcotics conspiracy. Months after McGriff’s release in 1997, Ja Rule rapped about the gang on a bonus track to Def Jam compilation Survival of the Illest: “Funds unlimited/Backed by my ‘Preme Team crime representatives.”
After a yearlong investigation, the FBI and New York Police Department raided Murder Inc.’s New York midtown offices and recording studio the Crackhouse in January 2003, seizing computers and documents. A thirty-two-page affidavit filed in U.S. District Court by an IRS special agent went so far as to claim that Gotti is the “public face” of Murder Inc., while the Supreme Team is the “true owner.” The same document also alleged that McGriff conducted illegal business using the label’s travel funds.
Gotti continues to insist that his label was founded with money from Def Jam and Universal, not by Supreme Team drug funds. Charges against the CEO himself have yet to be filed.
Ja Rule’s latest album, R.U.L.E., hit stores last week, selling 165,000 copies (his lowest first-week total to date) to debut at Number Seven.