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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 January, 2005, 10:33 GMT
Rap boss faces drug money charge
Irv "Gotti" Lorenzo (second left) is a hugely successful music producer
The head of the record label behind US stars Ja Rule and Ashanti has been charged with laundering $1m (530,000) for an alleged murderous drug gang.

Irving "Gotti" Lorenzo, who launched the Murder Inc label in 1997, faces 20 years in jail for alleged links to drug dealer Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff.

Authorities say Mr McGriff delivered drug money to Murder Inc, now known as The Inc, and got cheques in return.

Prosecutors said none of the artists signed to the label were involved.

"This investigation focused on drug dealing, murder and money laundering," prosecutor Roslynn Mauskopf said.

"It is not an investigation of the rap industry. Ja Rule, Ashanti and none of the other artists affiliated with Murder Inc are implicated in any way in this case."

Ashanti burst onto the music scene in 2002
Mr Lorenzo made his name producing songs for Jay-Z, DMX and Ja Rule and was given his own label by parent company Def Jam.

Murder Inc had huge success with releases by Ja Rule and Ashanti but attracted controversy when it was raided by the FBI in January 2003.

Mr Lorenzo's brother Christopher and six others also face money laundering charges.

Ms Mauskopf described Mr McGriff, who is currently in prison for gun offences, as the "powerful leader" of a "violent drug operation".

He spent seven years in jail in the 1990s for drug conspiracy and now faces three murder charges.

Defence lawyer Gerald Lefcourt said the Gotti brothers had been unfairly targeted.

"I think it's a perfectly legitimate operation," he said. "Ultimately, I expect Irv and Chris to be vindicated."

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