NEW YORK – ]A federal investigation of the rap music industry's alleged ties to the drug world has resulted in charges against the founder of a platinum-selling record label and a notorious crack kingpin, law enforcement sources said Tuesday.
Federal prosecutors were to announce an indictment Wednesday against Irv "Gotti" Lorenzo (search), head of The Inc., whose flagship artists are Ja Rule (search) and Ashanti, and Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff.
The law enforcement sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the pair would be charged in the murder conspiracy and money laundering case. The record label head's brother, Christopher Lorenzo, and The Inc. (search) also are named as defendants.
The sources requested anonymity and declined to detail any of the charges because the indictment had not been made public.
The three men deny any wrongdoing. McGriff is serving time on an unrelated gun conviction.
Gerald Lefcourt, who is representing Irv Lorenzo, insisted Tuesday that The Inc. is a legitimate business financed by part owner Island Def Jam (search), a Universal Music label. The Inc. — formerly known as Murder Inc. — has sold about 20 million records behind Ja Rule and Ashanti.
"Ultimately, he will be vindicated," Lefcourt said.
McGriff's lawyer, Robert Simels, accused the government of relying on cooperating witnesses who were charged with lesser crimes. "I'll be curious to see which one of these creative geniuses have been able to weave a tale that the prosecutors want to hear," he said.
The record-label chief and McGriff are suspected of funneling proceeds from McGriff's cocaine and heroin operation to The Inc., according to court documents filed in support of search and property seizure warrants.
In recent weeks, federal agents have arrested an accountant for The Inc. and the manager for Ja Rule. At least five other defendants, including associates of McGriff, already have been charged.
McGriff, 44, was founder of the Supreme Team, once one of the city's most violent drug gangs. Investigators suspect that after he finished serving about nine years for drug conspiracy in 1997, he set about reviving his drug-dealing operation.