NEW YORK (Reuters) - A record executive accused of paying someone to rob the late rapper Tupac Shakur in 1994 was charged on Tuesday with trafficking cocaine between Los Angeles and New York City.
James Rosemond, 46, co-founder of Czar Entertainment whose artists include Sean Kingston and The Game, was arrested at a Manhattan hotel on Tuesday. Federal authorities have been investigating him for alleged drug trafficking since 2009.
He appeared in Brooklyn federal court on Tuesday and was remanded in custody. He did not enter a plea.
His arrest comes days after New York police said they were investigating a claim by a convicted murderer that Rosemond paid him $2,500 to rob Shakur in 1994 outside a Manhattan recording studio. Shakur was shot five times, but survived.
A lawyer for Rosemond has denied the claim -- made in an online post -- linking the executive to the attack on Shakur and on Tuesday also denied the drug charges against Rosemond. If convicted, Rosemond faces a maximum life sentence.
“The indictment is the result of witnesses who have been threatened and bribed and have otherwise spent lifetimes lying,” said Rosemond’s attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman. “The government wants a trial -- they’re going to get a trial.”
Federal prosecutors accused Rosemond of being involved in a trafficking ring that ensured “a near-continuous flow of cocaine and cash” between Los Angeles and New York since 2008.
According to the complaint, drugs were initially shipped in vacuum-sealed packages filled with mustard, to evade drug-detecting dogs.
When law enforcement officials became suspicious, Rosemond is accused of sending drugs via freight apparently intended for the performers he managed. But when one of those packages was seized by authorities, the drugs were then smuggled in hidden compartments of cars, prosecutors said.
Czar Entertainment was not immediately available for comment on the charges against Rosemond. According to the company’s website, Rosemond was credited for producing hit songs, including Salt-N-Pepa’s “Shoop.”
Reporting by Jessica Dye, editing by Michelle Nichols