Days after being forced to vacate Universal Music Group's Manhattan headquarters, Murder Inc. and its founder, Irv Gotti, released a defiant music video mocking a government raid that led to the controversial label's eviction.
The video, based on a Ja Rule song called "Murder Reigns," spoofs law enforcement officials as they plot and execute a raid on Murder Inc.'s offices during an investigation into possible ties to drug money and other matters. The clip -- featuring actor Patrick Swayze as one of the officers -- ends with a courtroom trial in which a jury exonerates Gotti and his label.
Last week, Gotti and his employees quietly packed up and moved to new offices on New York's 54th Street after being pushed out of Universal's nearby 8th Avenue complex.
The Vivendi Universal-owned music giant had asked the rap label, which is partnered with its Def Jam Group, to leave because of complaints from fellow tenants.
Sources say Microsoft Inc. and other tenants lobbied the building's owners to expel Murder Inc. after the federal raid and the Feb. 24 shooting of Gotti's brother in front of the 8th Avenue high-rise.
On Jan. 3, FBI agents raided the Murder Inc. offices and seized the bank accounts of several companies involved in a soundtrack for the label's first film project, "Crime Partners." The low-budget film, which has yet to be released, stars Ja Rule and was produced and co-written by Kenneth McGriff.
Federal agents are continuing to pore over confiscated documents, investigating alleged financial ties between Murder Inc. and McGriff, a convicted drug kingpin whose gang ruled the crack trade in Jamaica, N.Y., during the 1980s. Last year, Gotti negotiated a $1-million soundtrack deal with McGriff, securing a $500,000 advance check for him from Def Jam.
Authorities also are reviewing a number of questionable transactions between Gotti and McGriff, including plane tickets and hotel reservations for McGriff underwritten by Murder Inc., sources said.
Prosecutors have interviewed several music executives with knowledge of the tickets and other transactions as they prepare to convene a grand jury, sources said.
Label sources said Tuesday that the payments were legitimate promotional expenses. They said McGriff traveled with other Murder Inc. executives to Los Angeles and Atlanta last year as part of a tour to promote his movie and soundtrack.
Authorities are examining whether the seed money that Gotti used to launch his music industry career came from drug trafficking, sources said. Officials also are probing allegations of money laundering, extortion, gang ties and a recent series of violent attacks in the rap music world, sources said.
No charges have been filed against Gotti, whose real name is Irving Lorenzo, or against his brother, Murder Inc. executive Christopher Lorenzo.
Gotti declined to comment. But sources close to the rap mogul said there is nothing illicit about the business relationship between Gotti and McGriff. Over the last three years, Gotti has earned millions legally by running Murder Inc., his associates said.
McGriff could not be reached for comment. He is imprisoned in Baltimore awaiting a hearing on a parole violation for shooting a gun at a firing range.
Universal and Def Jam declined to comment. The U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn also declined to comment.