Rapper Ja Rule pleads guilty to tax evasion

NEW YORK Tue Mar 22, 2011 7:23pm EDT

Rapper Ja-Rule arrives at Manhattan Criminal Court for a hearing in New York March 4, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Rapper Ja-Rule arrives at Manhattan Criminal Court for a hearing in New York March 4, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rapper Ja Rule pleaded guilty on Tuesday to failing to file tax returns and promised to pay more than $1 million in back taxes and penalties, the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey said.

Ja Rule, whose original name is Jeffrey Atkins, 35, pleaded guilty in Newark federal court to three counts of failing to file a tax return, from 2004 through 2008, even though he was making money from royalties and live tours.

The Grammy-nominated rapper and New Jersey resident agreed to pay the government more than $1.1 million in tax debts, plus penalties imposed by the Internal Revenue Service, according to federal prosecutors.

"Each of us must pay our fair share to keep this country going," U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said in a statement.

U.S. federal judge Patty Shwartz set bail at $500,000 and permitted Atkins' release pending sentencing scheduled for June 13. He faces a maximum sentence of one year in prison on each count.

In December, Atkins was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty to a weapons possession charge stemming from a 2007 incident in which he was pulled over by police who discovered a semi-automatic handgun hidden in his luxury car.

He has appeared in several films, most notably "The Fast and the Furious" and "Scary Movie 3".

(Reporting by Bernd Debusmann Jr., editing by Christine Kearney)

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