By Michael Morton
The drug dealer, Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, returned from eight years in prison for selling crack in South Jamaica's Baisley Park Houses, only to forge links with Lorenzo and re-establish his operation on a grander scale, prosecutors said. Currently imprisoned after a gun conviction, he has been charged with racketeering, drug distribution and murder.Lorenzo, 34, of New Rochelle, N.Y., and his brother,The Inc. vice president Christopher Lorenzo, aka “Chris Gotti,” 37, of 75-34 Bell Blvd. in Oakland Gardens were arraigned Jan. 26 in federal court in Brooklyn. They pleaded not guilty and each posted bail of $1 million. The brothers were ordered to return to court March 18 and could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Two of the company's employees face similar charges.The two music companies that Lorenzo Gotti runs, Murder, Inc. and IG Records, were fined. The government wants to seek assets belonging to the companies, as well as those belonging to the individual defendants.McGriff, 45, faces up to life imprisonment or the death penalty. Three of his alleged associates have also been charged with murder, while one suspected crony has been charged with drug distribution.Irving Lorenzo said he knew people from his old neighborhood who are involved in nefarious activities, but had been unfairly associated with their actions.”In no way, shape or form have I done anything wrong except make great music that people seem to love,” he said. “That's all that I'm guilty of.” The charges against McGriff and the Lorenzos came after a two-year investigation, part of a larger, ongoing probe by the Police Department and several federal law enforcement agencies into ties between drug traffickers and money laundering by suspected acquaintances in the hip-hop music industry. The current probe began after a tip about possible money laundering at Murder, Inc., now known as The Inc., Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, said.The case has its origins in the Baisley Park Houses in the early 1980s, when McGriff organized a murderous crack dealing operation known as the “Supreme Team,” prosecutors said. McGriff later pleaded guilty to running a criminal enterprise and was sent to prison. When he was released in 1995, he rebuilt his organization into an East Coast drug powerhouse, prosecutors said. In the indictment, prosecutors linked him and his associates to a narcotics stash house in Baltimore as well as to the murders of a fellow gang member suspected of cooperating with police and someone who witnessed the homicide. They are also charged in a suspected revenge killing of aspiring rapper Eric “E. Money Bags” Smith in Queens Village in 2001, prosecutors said.The Lorenzos and their employees were not charged in the murders or drug dealing. But they are suspected of laundering money for McGriff in several ways. The convicted dealer would come to The Inc. offices with cash, after which Irving Lorenzo would allegedly write checks on McGriff's behalf, prosecutors said. Irving also allegedly convinced another, unnamed company, to cover some of McGriff's travel expenses. The indictment indicates the company is Deaf Jam, now Island Deaf Jam, which was created by Hollis native Russell Simmons and formed Murder, Inc. with Irving Lorenzo in 1999. Island Def Jam was not charged nor were The Inc.'s stars, which include Ashanti and Hollis-born Ja Rule. Irving Lorenzo also allegedly convinced the unnamed company to fund the soundtrack of a direct-to-video film called “Crime Partners” produced by McGriff. Irving Lorenzo allegedly secured the deal by guaranteeing $500,000 of it, secretly funded by McGriff, prosecutors said.Law enforcement officials said they were not targeting the rap industry but rather drugs, guns and violence.”Whether their tastes run to rap, rock or classical, those who launder drug money and engage in violent criminal acts will face the music of aggressive law enforcement scrutiny and long prison sentences,” said Pasquale D'Amuro, assistant director-in-charge for the Federal Bureau of Investigations.Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.