A MURDER INC associate has quietly cut a plea deal with authorities investigating alleged ties between the music label and New York's drug trade.

Court papers show that JON RAGIN - a convicted drug dealer who co-produced a recent film marketed by Murder Inc records - pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges. DEREK HAYES, who was arrested with Ragin earlier this year (03), has also agreed to a plea bargain with prosecutors in Brooklyn.

Prosecutors have described Ragin as a close associate of KENNETH 'SUPREME' McGRIFF, a convicted drug kingpin suspected of secretly funding Irv Gotti's label, home to multi-platinum artists Ashanti and Ja Rule.

Ragin and Hayes were arrested during January (03) raids at various New York locations, including the Murder Inc offices and a sham tuxedo rental business linked to a 1999 murder. The men were accused of using the tuxedo shop as a front for laundering proceeds from stolen credit cards.

Ragin pleaded guilty last week (ends08AUG03) to credit card fraud and money laundering, and faces 15 to 19 years in prison at sentencing on 31 October (03). Hayes pleaded guilty last month (JUL03) to making illegal bank deposits. He faces six months to one year in prison at sentencing on 6 October (03).

According to an affidavit filed earlier this year, an informant told federal investigators that while "Gotti is the public face of Murder Inc, McGriff is the true owner of the company".

The affidavit was filed in support of a warrant authorizing seizure of bank accounts related to CRIME PARTNERS, a straight-to-video film marketed by Murder Inc. McGriff and Ragin were listed as executive producers of the movie, which starred Ja Rule, Snoop Dogg and Ice-T.

12/08/2003 13:47