Murder, Inc. Muscle Linked To Three Homicides

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Murder, Inc. Muscle Linked To Three Homicides

APRIL 28--The narcotics kingpin at the center of the federal criminal probe engulfing one of rap music's leading labels is suspected of ordering several murders, including a double homicide in Baltimore and the revenge slaying of a New York rapper, The Smoking Gun has learned.

As we've previously reported, an FBI/NYPD probe targeting Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff is examining his close ties with rap titan Irv Gotti (real name Irving Lorenzo) and the Murder, Inc. label. Investigators have alleged that McGriff, 43, bankrolled Gotti and has "provided Murder, Inc. with 'muscle'--threats, violence, and intimidation."

The federal investigation is also focusing on McGriff's alleged involvement in three murders during the summer of 2001, according to a confidential search warrant affidavit obtained by TSG (a copy of which you'll find at left). At the request of Brooklyn federal prosecutors who cited possible retribution by McGriff's henchmen, TSG agreed to redact small portions of the affidavit. [11/18/04 Update: With today's filing of murder charges in connection with the July 2001 killing of Eric Smith, a 30-year-old rapper known as E-Money Bags, TSG has posted an unredacted copy of the federal affidavit.]

Law enforcement officials contend that McGriff ordered Smith's murder to avenge the December 1999 killing of a friend, Colbert Johnson. The supposed role of Smith, who was shot to death as he sat in a car parked on a Queens street, in the Johnson homicide is not detailed in the affidavit sworn by Detective William Courtney.

In late-August 2001, when investigators raided a Baltimore stash pad used by McGriff, they found $30,000 in cash, loads of cocaine and heroin, and a particularly incriminating surveillance videotape. On the video--which bears recording dates of July 13-16, 2001--Smith is seen driving and parking his Lincoln Navigator on the Queens street where he was gunned down on July 16 at 9:45 PM. Investigators determined that the video was shot by Dennis "Divine" Crosby, a drug-dealing McGriff associate, and Nicole Brown, Crosby's girlfriend.

According to the Courtney affidavit, Crosby and Brown videotaped Smith driving and congregating with his friends on 111th Road, the Queens Village street where the rapper would later be shot about ten times by gunmen. Last January, Brown told an NYPD detective that the surveillance video was shot from her home, with Crosby handling most of the filming. She also admitted personally videotaping Smith up until 20 minutes before his killing and that, two days after the murder, Crosby requested the videotape from her. The affidavit does not detail how the surveillance videotape, which Crosby shot from a nearby apartment, made its way to McGriff's stash house.

[11/18/04 Update: Crosby and Brown were named today in a federal indictment charging them with murder for their alleged roles in the Smith homicide conspiracy.]

While not well known outside rap circles, Smith recorded with Nas and Noreaga and merited a post-mortem shout-out on a 50 Cent cut. During an interview last year on Fox's "Hannity & Colmes," Russell Simmons mentioned Smith when he spoke of the unsolved killings of rap performers. "They don't know who murdered Tupac, who murdered Biggie, who murdered E-Money Bags, who murdered Jam Master Jay," said Simmons.

The Courtney affidavit also fingers McGriff for the August 2001 killing of Karon Clarrett, a criminal associate whom he suspected was cooperating with law enforcement. Clarrett, 28, and a friend were gunned down in a parking lot across from the apartment complex where McGriff maintained his drug stash pad (where the Smith surveillance videotape was discovered).

A confidential witness has told investigators that McGriff farmed out the Clarrett killing to a criminal cohort in return for forgiving part of "a substantial drug debt." Though the Clarrett hit was successful, McGriff "was angry because the homicides exposed his stash house and its contents to a search by law enforcement," according to the affidavit.

That search turned up a goldmine of evidence, including proof that McGriff, using an alias, had attended a 2001 firearms training course--a no-no for a convicted felon. Arrested on a federal weapons charge in December 2002, McGriff pleaded guilty in mid-2003 and was sentenced to 37 months in prison.

The Courtney affidavit was prepared in connection with a court application to search a Jamaica, Queens home where weapons used in the Smith and Clarrett homicides were reportedly stashed. A law enforcement source told investigators late last year that McGriff had arranged for the guns to be given to an associate, who was supposed to discard them. But the associate, a Queens drug dealer with two felony convictions, "disregarded these instructions and kept them instead." The McGriff associate believed that the Jamaica apartment, in a New York City Housing Authority complex, was "clean" since the tenant had never been arrested and "there is no drug activity in the premises."