Tax Rap Is ‘Murder’
Murray Weiss, NY Post, Apr. 28
IT’S the biggest empire in rap music — and it’s headed for a major fall.
Federal prosecutors are set to indict hip-hop impresario Irv (Lorenzo) Gotti — the founder of the powerful Murder Inc. label, who boasts superstar clients like Ja Rule and Ashanti — on tax charges, law-enforcement sources told The Post.
Lorenzo, who changed his name to Gotti in admiration for Gambino family crime boss John Gotti, is expected to soon be hit with charges involving million-dollar tax-evasion schemes, the sources said.
But the charges — expected to be made public in the next few weeks — would be only the tip of the iceberg in the feds’ overall case against Gotti and his close pal, notorious imprisoned drug kingpin Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, sources said.
Probers are also looking at:
* As many as nine murders, including several here. Those slayings range from the 1995 execution of a 33-year-old convicted murderer and drug dealer outside a Jamaica, Queens, sports bar, to the 2003 slaying of an up-and-coming rapper who had signed a contract with Murder Inc.
* Whether the nation’s largest hip-hop label was launched with proceeds from McGriff’s murderous drug empire.
Gotti and McGriff — boyhood chums from Hollis, Queens — as well as Gotti’s brother, Christopher, are in the crosshairs of Brooklyn federal prosecutors and agents from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as the IRS.
* Allegations involving at least two New York lawyers who were used to win bail set for a suspected drug courier caught with two kilos in North Carolina in 2001. The courier was assassinated in Maryland along with a cohort just days later.
In a highly unusual step, prosecutors called one of the lawyers in front of a grand jury to testify in the case. The prosecutors wanted to make sure the lawyers had not been aware of the assassination plot.
* A lifelong friend of both Gotti and McGriff, who reportedly once told the feds that he was a strong-arm collector for Murder Inc.
The man — Tyran “Ta-Ta” Moore, the ex-lover of Sandi “Pepa” Denton of the hit group Salt ‘N’ Pepa — later denied he made the incriminating remark.
In the tax case, the feds are zeroing in on allegations that Murder Inc. failed to report revenues from the sale of concert-related items such as tickets, promotional advertisements, T-shirts, hats and CDs from its wildly successful stable of artists.
Gotti, in his 30s, also allegedly doled out hundreds of thousands of dollars in unreported “salary” and corporate expenses to McGriff, 42, during the time the crack-cocaine czar was freed from jail in the mid 1990s.
McGriff’s perks included access to free flights “throughout the country,” stays at posh Four Seasons hotels and even a $1,200 limousine ride while he was visiting a cousin in a Texas federal jail, court records show.
Until now, the focus of much of the investigators’ scrutiny has been McGriff’s symbiotic relationship with Murder Inc.
Court papers allege that the label used McGriff’s “muscle” to intimidate competitors, while providing him with cover to launder his drug money and use credit cards and two-way pagers to facilitate his multistate operations.
The court papers claim that McGriff’s unrestricted access to Murder Inc.’s office came complete with a set of keys to locked cabinets and drawers.
McGriff served 10 years in federal prison for running one of New York’s most violent and lucrative drug rings in the 1980s.
He is now serving a 37-month federal prison stretch after pleading guilty last June to possessing a weapon.
Another probe is looking into what possible role the coke kingpin might have had in the 2001 Maryland executions, which took place outside a drug-stash house.
Investigators suspect that McGriff orchestrated — or carried out — the twin killings because he feared one or both of the victims were contemplating cooperating with the government.
McGriff’s fingerprints were found in the stash house, along with out-takes from a $1 million video co-produced by Murder Inc. and McGriff called “Crime Partners.” The footage captured McGriff stuffing large-denomination bills down his pants.
In addition to being eyed in the slayings, McGriff is under scrutiny for allegedly using his role as producer of the “Crime Partners” video to collect an under-the-table payout from Murder Inc.
Part of the overall probe also involves federal agents tracing a weapon once found on McGriff to Chris Gotti, after McGriff was stopped in July 2001 in a BMW in Harlem.
The .40-caliber handgun was in McGriff’s waistband, along with about $10,000 in cash and a New Jersey driver’s license bearing his photograph and the name Lee Tuten.
McGriff told the cops his name was Rick Coleman and that he was an executive of a record company, Island Def Jam, the parent of Murder Inc.
Federal agents traced the weapon to Las Vegas, where it had been purchased by Chris Gotti. Investigators believe the gun was given to Irv Gotti, who passed it to McGriff.
Adding to both Irv Gotti’s and McGriff’s troubles are Moore’s comments.
Last year, Moore found himself in the midst of a two-hour standoff in Brooklyn with NYPD negotiators after being mistakenly suspected of shooting an NYPD captain.
While talking to the FBI afterward, Moore said, “People just give me money when I show up” — referring to his alleged job as an enforcer — according to a federal source.
Moore later denied making the incriminating statement.
Irv Gotti has denied any wrongdoing, claiming his relationship with McGriff is only one of a friend helping another friend and that McGriff never helped found Murder Inc. — which recently changed its name simply to Inc.
Gotti’s lawyer, Gerald Lefcourt, declined to comment on “the continual flow of leaks,” referring to the allegations. Gerald Shargel, who represents Chris Gotti, also declined comment.
McGriff’s lawyer, Robert Simels, said his client has been the victim of wild innuendo.
“[McGriff’s] name seem to come up with every unsolved crime,” Simels said, insisting if the government “had the goods” they would have brought more charges against him. He now faces one firearms charge.