Ol’ Dirty Bastard, a.k.a. Russell T. Jones, was a founding member of the New York hip-hop supergroup the Wu-Tang Clan, which rose to prominence in the ‘90s. Due to his wacky persona, many arrests, bizarre forays into mainstream music—on the hits “Ghetto Superstar” and the pimp anthem “Got Your Money”—and even an outrageous 1995 MTV special that featured the rapper picking up food stamps in a limo, he was viewed as the first jester of rap, and described as “something of a folk hero” by The New Yorker.
According to a recently released cache of FBI files, he was also—along with members of the Wu-Tang Clan—allegedly “heavily involved in the sale of drugs, illegal guns, weapons possession, murder, carjackings, and other types of violent crimes,” lending credence to their celebrated song, “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta Fuck Wit.” The 94-page FBI file, released following a Freedom of Information Act request, says detectives sought the assistance of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to attempt to build a case against “the WTC Organization” that included “federal charges and a RICO prosecution.”
Ol’ Dirty Bastard died of a drug overdose on Nov. 13, 2004, but the hip-hop collective lives on, and includes rap luminaries: RZA, GZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, and Masta Killa. According to the FBI files, the late ODB and the WTC, which plans to release their sixth studio album this year, are linked to a laundry list of crimes.
Here are the most explosive finds from the FBI file on Ol’ Dirty Bastard…
Gun Running… and Murder
The FBI file alleges that the Wu-Tang Clan “purchased numerous guns from the Steubenville, Ohio, area,” later claiming that the sellers identified the rappers through a photo spread presented to them. At least one of the guns involved in this purchase—a black Glock .40 caliber, model No. 27—was identified as the murder weapon in the killing of Robert Johnson, a.k.a. “Pooh,” on Staten Island, New York, on December 30, 1997. According to the file, “Johnson was an associate of the WTC who had a falling out with the group and it is believed that his murder was ordered by someone within the WTC.”
Laundering Money Through Their Label(s)
In the FBI files, claims are made that the Wu-Tang Clan allegedly laundered money through their record label in order to pay for their nefarious dealings. The files indicate that once an individual had proven his or her loyalty to the WTC, they were “offered record contracts to record rap type music,” and “numerous recording companies were incorporated, along with bank accounts established,” for this end. According to the files, “this allows legitimate monies to flow into these accounts along with the proceeds from [redacted].” The file does, however, offer that the WTC runs a variety of “legitimate types of businesses,” including its own clothing line.
The FBI files refer to allegations of a laundry list of crimes, including drug trafficking, carjacking, and shootings, sometimes by what law enforcement believed were potential Wu-Tang Clan associates. The evidence that apparently led them to this allegation was the arrest and subsequent testimony of an unidentified individual for the murder of Jerome Estrella, a.k.a “Boo Boo,” on June 20, 1999. According to the file, “It is believed that [redacted] sometimes carry out enforcement actions for the WTC, which include beatings, shootings, and murder.” Another piece of evidence allegedly linking the Wu-Tang Clan to such unsavory behavior was “a shooting and carjacking that occurred on Staten Island by an associate of the WTC,” who goes by the nickname “Fife.” The incident, which occurred on or about May 21, 1999, in the vicinity of 27 Warren Street, Staten Island, is described in the report as an angel dust and PCP drug deal gone bad that resulted in a shooting, and alleges that one of the parties involved “is also a suspect in an unsolved homicide which was supposedly ordered by the WTC” as “retaliation for [redacted] robbing an associate of the WTC.” The file also alleges links between the Wu-Tang Clan and the Bloods street gang: “On 10/5/99, SA [redacted] spoke with SA [redacted] relief supervisor, and advised that he would be traveling to the Allentown RA to provide and compare information relating to the drug business of the Bloods street gang and the Wu-Tang Clan.”
The Curious Case of Robert “Pooh” Johnson
A 10-page document submitted by the NYPD to the FBI on Aug. 17, 1999, detailed the chain of events surrounding the alleged murder of Robert “Pooh” Johnson, a “known Wu-Tang Clan associate” who was killed on Dec. 30, 1997. According to the report, on July 1, 1998, Ol’ Dirty Bastard was the victim of multiple gunshot wounds received when he was robbed by two masked men who “entered the apartment, robbed him of jewelry, and shot him.” Just over a week later, on July 9, a man named Ishmael “Hoody” Kourma received six fatal gunshot wounds in Steubenville, Ohio. That same day, police allegedly performed a car stop on a vehicle with New Jersey plates—in the same town where the Wu-Tang Clan was alleged to have purchased guns—and “a shotgun, ammo, and gun holster were recovered from the vehicles.” On Jan. 15, 1999, Ol’ Dirty Bastard was allegedly involved in a shootout with NYPD officers following a car stop in Brooklyn, but a Brooklyn grand jury failed to indict him on attempted-murder charges. Lastly, on March 11, 1999, Ol’ Dirty Bastard was charged by the Los Angeles Police Department as a “convicted felon in possession of body armor,” and held on $115,000 bail.
Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Bullet-Riddled Testimony
According to the FBI file, on Nov. 3, 1999, Ol’ Dirty Bastard gave detectives a description of being robbed and shot on July 1, 1998. According to ODB’s account, he was asleep in bed and awoke to a gun in his face, wrestled with his assailant, and shots went off. ODB was shot in the left arm and back. The jewelry—including a linked chain with a “7” charm on it and rings valued at about $10,000 total—was removed from ODB’s body by one of the masked gunmen. Before it all went down, ODB said his sister heard that he was “to be hit.” The family allegedly knew who committed the robbery, and he “plays b-ball always on the street.” ODB then drove himself to St. John’s Hospital for treatment. ODB declined to investigate who robbed him “because he did not want to cause problems for his family, who still lived in the projects where the robbery occurred.” It was also revealed that, two years prior to this incident, ODB was robbed and shot in Brooklyn’s Kingston projects.
The Diddy Connection?
One of the more curious inclusions in Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s file is a Newsday clipping from Dec. 28, 1999, detailing the New York City nightclub shooting that resulted in Sean “Puffy” Combs and his then-girlfriend, Jennifer Lopez, being arrested. Why this incident would be included in Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s FBI file outlining his own criminal activity remains a mystery. Nothing in the file indicates any connection between the two stars and Jones or the Wu-Tang Clan.
The Rap Robbers
ODB’s robbery at gunpoint was, it seems, one of several incidents involving rappers being “robbed at gunpoint at various locations, including home invasions,” according to the FBI file. Those committing the crimes were allegedly “former industry insiders who had banded together,” and police interviewed a source who said that he or she sold stolen jewelry in exchange for cash to an associate of the robbers. An undercover police officer then met with the buyer allegedly connected to the rap robbery crime ring and sold him or her “jewelry represented as stolen” on three occasions in exchange for cash. Despite this development, the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute the matter, citing a “lack of investigative merit,” and closed the case.
ODB’s Rap Sheet
On Jan. 30, 1999, the FBI’s request that Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s criminal record be released to them was granted by then-New York Police Department Commissioner Howard Safir. Robert “Ol’ Dirty Bastard” Jones was arrested a total of nine times between April 1, 1987, and Jan. 15, 1999, for crimes ranging from petty larceny to attempted first-degree murder. The most curious charges against ODB stemmed from an arrest on Nov. 12, 1997, when he was charged both with contempt and nonsupport of a child, and his arrest on Jan. 15, 1999, when he was charged with attempted murder in the first/second degree, criminal use of a firearm, and … unlawful wearing of a body vest.