Multimillion-selling hip-hop label Murder Inc. wrote checks to a convicted drug kingpin’s company in exchange for dirty cash, prosecutors say in a new complaint.
According to investigators, Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff produced the straight-to-video movie “Crime Partners” with help from Murder Inc., which is owned by McGriff’s longtime friend Irving “Irv Gotti” Lorenzo. Revenue from the film should be forfeited because the project was financed with drug money, according to a civil complaint filed Monday in federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The movie, based on the Donald Goines novel of the same name, stars Snoop Dog, Ice-T, and Murder Inc. artist Ja Rule. Federal agents have learned that “McGriff’s drug cash was delivered to various video shoots for the ‘Crime Partners’ movie,” and that the money “would be used to pay for various movie expenses,” the complaint said.
McGriff was one of the film’s executive producers, while Murder Inc. helped market the film and finance the soundtrack. McGriff received a $500,000 advance for the soundtrack from Murder Inc.’s parent company, Island Def Jam, according to a company document obtained by the Los Angeles Times, but no soundtrack has been released. “Crime Partners” was released on DVD in late March.
The complaint was filed as part of an ongoing money laundering investigation of Murder Inc. In raids earlier this year, investigators seized bank accounts and records of Picture Perfect Films, the movie’s distributor.
The complaint asks the court to order the forfeiture of frozen funds and all proceeds from “Crime Partners,” which is billed as the story of “two small-time gangstas” who are contracted to “handle a high-profile hit” in Harlem. The complaint did not specify how much money was at stake.
Neither McGriff nor Lorenzo have been charged in the money laundering case, which prosecutors have refused to discuss. An attorney for McGriff, Robert Simels, denied the new allegations. A call to Lorenzo was not immediately returned; he has previously denied any wrongdoing.
Other court documents have accused McGriff of forming an illicit partnership with Gotti. Rap industry insiders have told investigators that McGriff provided proceeds from drug trafficking in New York and Maryland as “start-up money” for the powerhouse music label, which is also home to R&B newcomer Ashanti.
A 2001 raid on a house in Baltimore uncovered suspicious “behind the scenes” videotape from the set of “Crime Partners,” the papers add. “McGriff can be seen on the videotape stuffing what appears to be large amounts of cash down his pants.”
McGriff, 42, recently pleaded guilty to a gun possession charge in Baltimore, where he is awaiting sentencing. He had served 10 years in prison for running a crack-dealing crew in Queens that was responsible for several murders.
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