DOCUMENT: Celebrity, Crime

T.I.'s Snitch Posse

Rap star's protege once worked as DEA informant, government witness


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T.I.'s Snitch Posse

MAY 5--Billed as the protégé of rapper/gun enthusiast T.I., Cedric "Alfamega" Zellars is a convicted felon whose songs brag about his status as an "original gangster" and contain de rigeur references to police tape, automatic weapons, and murder.

Zellars, who records for T.I.'s Grand Hustle Entertainment, is a hulking 6' 4', calls himself "The Grand Hustle Muscle," and proclaims, "I'm a real hood." What he does not mention, though, is his prior work as a Drug Enforcement Administration informant who snitched out criminal cohorts and testified as a government witness at the trial of an Atlanta heroin trafficker.

Court records show that Zellars began working with law enforcement officials after he was sentenced in September 1995 to 110 months in a federal gun case (Zellars, who had a prior felony robbery conviction, was collared for selling weapons to an undercover federal agent). Zellars "agreed to cooperate with authorities and was debriefed" about the criminal activity of several individuals.

"In particular he was debriefed concerning the drug trafficking activities of a Mr. Ali Baaqar," according to a government court filing, a copy of which you'll find here. During his cooperation against Baaqar, Zellars met with a DEA agent and a federal prosecutor, and subsequently testified at trial. "Ali Baaqar was convicted of conspiracy to distribute heroin based upon the trial testimony of [Zellars] and others."

In return for his snitching, Zellars had 18 months shaved off his prison term when he was resentenced in July 1997 by Judge J. Owen Forrester. A court order signed by Forrester came after federal prosecutors petitioned the jurist to reduce Zellars's sentence in light of his "substantial assistance to the Government."

The disclosure of Zellars's informant past will likely not sit well with rap fans and performers alike, many of whom promote hip-hop's "Stop Snitching" doctrine. Additionally, since T.I. (real name: Clifford Harris) is soon headed to prison due to the work of a government informant, Zellars's time as a government asset could be a cause for tension around the Grand Hustle offices. (4 pages)