MAY 23--When accused narcotics kingpin/hip-hop manager James Rosemond met last year with federal investigators to try and strike a cooperation agreement, he was peppered with questions about whether he knew of any criminal activity on the part of Rev. Al Sharpton, Sean “Diddy” Combs, and Wyclef Jean, according to an Internal Revenue Service agent who testified yesterday at Rosemond’s trial in Brooklyn federal court.
Federal prosecutors elicited testimony from Agent Marc Van Driessche about what Rosemond said during a series of nine separate “proffer sessions” attended by various IRS and Drug Enforcement Administration agents, prosecutors, and Rosemond’s lawyer, Gerald Shargel.
During the first session, on October 4, Rosemond was specifically asked about Combs because, “We had information through other witnesses that the defendant may have made an admission to Sean Combs,” Van Driessche testified. Rosemond, the agent recalled, said that he had some prior “business transactions with [Combs] in the music business,” and described their relationship as “cordial.”
The nature of the mysterious “admission” reportedly made by Rosemond, 47, to Combs was not further described.
Rosemond was also asked about his business relationship and financial transactions with Sharpton. Van Driessche testified that he had “known through my investigation that he had some type of business relationship with Al Sharpton, and I just wanted to determine what the extent of that was.” Rosemond told investigators that he “did in fact give Al Sharpton about $10,000 as a donation or a contribution.”
When cross-examined by Shargel, Van Driessche agreed that the Sharpton questions posed to Rosemond by federal investigators involved whether the hip-hop figure engaged in cash transactions with the activist/MSNBC host and if he knew about Sharpton doing “anything wrong.”
Shargel also asked the IRS agent if he knew that Rosemond “represented Reverend Sharpton in an effort to find an outlet for his popularity and his talent, right?” Van Driessche replied, “I knew they had an arrangement, but I didn't know the exact details.”
Investigators then asked Rosemond about his extensive financial dealings with Jean, Van Driessche testified. Rosemond told of loaning the singer “$60,000 in cash that were drug proceeds but Wyclef didn’t know it was drug proceeds.”
Van Driessche explained that in the course of his investigation, “I saw that the defendant had received over $800,000 in checks from companies associated with Wyclef Jean or companies run by Wyclef Jean’s tour manager.” When questioned by Shargel, Van Driessche acknowledged that federal agents suspected that Jean may have been involved in laundering drug proceeds for Rosemond.
“So you wanted to find out if Wyclef Jean, a candidate for the presidency of Haiti, was involved in criminal activity, right?” Shargel asked Van Driessche, who answered, “That’s right.”
In the course of the lengthy probe of Rosemond and his alleged criminal cohorts, federal agents scrutinized business and banking records for evidence of money laundering by Rosemond and Czar Entertainment, his music management company. Czar, prosecutors allege, was a front operation through which Rosemond washed millions in proceeds from the sale of thousands of kilos of cocaine.
Van Driessche’s testimony included no further discussion of the purpose of the $800,000 transferred to Rosemond by Jean and his tour manager, nor whether federal agents are continuing to investigate the transactions. Jean, pictured above with Rosemond, has not been charged in connection with the probe of Rosemond, who faces life in prison if convicted by the federal jury that last week began hearing testimony about his alleged cocaine distribution, witness tampering, money laundering, and obstruction of justice.
At a sidebar yesterday afternoon with prosecutors and Judge John Gleeson, Shargel said that federal investigators were seeking “trophies” when they quizzed Rosemond about celebrities. The attorney added that when Rosemond did not deliver these high-profile figures, prosecutors rejected his bid for a cooperation agreement (which would have spared him from the prospect of dying in prison). Government lawyers rejected this claim, saying that Rosemond was untrustworthy and lied during some proffer sessions.
During one sit down with investigators, Rosemond described how he shipped cocaine and cash from New York to Los Angeles inside cases built to hold musical equipment. During this discussion, Van Driessche testified, Rosemond said that he and an associate “had used music cases to ship firearms to the recording artist The Game.” Rosemond is the longtime manager of the L.A.-based rap star (real name: Jayceon Taylor).
During Shargel’s cross-examination of Van Driessche, the IRS agent testified that Rosemond was also questioned by prosecutor Todd Kaminsky about whether he had any information about the murders of performers Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls. Rosemond replied that he knew nothing about the killings that shook the hip-hop industry.
Prosecutors yesterday told Gleeson that they expected to wrap up their case late next week. After that, Shargel anticipates a three-day defense case with about 10 witnesses. During a sidebar, Shargel noted that he asked prosecutors not to share his witness list with the press because, "I don't want some undue publicity,” likely an indication that he plans on calling some well-known individuals to the stand.