Rap mogul arrested in pot ring bust

October 15, 2010 5:11:59 PM PDT
Kareem Burke, the rap mogul who helped Jay-Z launch his career, has been arrested in a pot ring bust.

Fifty people were charged with participating in a massive marijuana trafficking ring that transported ton-quantities of marijuana for distribution in the greater New York area from the early 1990's to 2010.

Authorities said Burke, who founded Roc-A-Fella Records with Shawn (Jay-Z) Carter and Damon Dash from his home in North Bergen in the mid 1990s, faces charges of conspiracy with intent to distribute drugs. He was caught on a wiretap discussing "grow houses" with the alleged ringleader, Geovanny (Manny) Rodriguez Perez.

Matt Stang, an ad executive for High Times magazine, was also charged.

Prosecutors allege the marijuana was grown using hydroponics in Florida and smuggled to New York for street sales.

"These criminal organizations have allegedly dominated the illegal marijuana market in New York City for almost 20 years," Jim Hayes, head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in New York, said. "We have successfully shut down a major pipeline for marijuana distribution in New York City.

The long-term investigation dubbed "Operation Green Venom" also seized almost $2 million in marijuana proceeds and over 360 pounds of pot linked to this organization since 2008.

Investigators used wire taps to gather evidence and infiltrate drug trafficking crews that controlled the importation and distribution of marijuana throughout the New York area, Hayes said.

Forty-five of the charged defendants are in custody. Five defendants remained at large.

Hayes said the takedown was the result of an 18-month investigation involving his agency, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the New York Police Department, as well as the city's Department of Investigation and Special Narcotics Prosecutor's office.