|Lawmaker intervened on
inquiry into rapper and label, records show
DEA official says investigation active as
new song taunts agents
By Lee Hancock / The Dallas Morning
HOUSTON – A federal drug investigation of a Houston rap
recording label and its associates was frozen after a
prominent California congresswoman intervened on behalf of the
label's founder with top Clinton administration officials,
case investigators say.
This week, the record label Rap-A-Lot plans to release a CD
in which one of its best-selling artists taunts the Drug
Enforcement Administration and talks of killing agency
informants. On the CD, rap artist Brad "Scarface" Jordan, one
of several Rap-A-Lot associates arrested in the DEA inquiry,
brags of the "Rap-A-Lot mafia's" ability to derail an
investigation and drug agents' careers.
"Can't be stopped. Not even by a badge," one song declares,
going on to curse two DEA agents by name. "There ain't enough
[expletive] in the states to come stop this Rap-A-Lot mafia."
The joint investigation by the DEA and Houston police of
the company and its founder, James A. Prince, was frozen after
U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., intervened in August 1999
on his behalf with Attorney General Janet Reno, according to
investigators and documents.
Ms. Waters did not return repeated phone calls seeking
Mr. Prince has never been charged as a result of the
investigation and has said his company has done nothing
illegal. He did not respond to interview requests.
Ms. Waters' letter to Ms. Reno states that Mr. Smith and
his associates feared for their lives because of what they
called racist police harassment and use of excessive force. In
a personal appeal to DEA officials, Ms. Waters cited the fact
that the lead agent in the case, Jack Schumacher, had been
previously involved in six fatal police shootings.
Authorities said each of the shootings was justifed. James
Nims, one of Mr. Schumacher's supervisors, wrote a memo last
September that said that all of Mr. Prince's complaints were
Last spring, Agent Schumacher, a 27-year law enforcement
veteran who directed the case through more than 20 state and
federal convictions as well as cocaine seizures in Oklahoma
City, Beaumont and Houston, was transferred from active
investigation to a desk job. Police involved in the inquiry
again blame Washington politics.
"It looks like the DEA and the Justice Department in
Washington turned their backs on a good agent and a good
investigation," said Joe Harris, a retired Harris County
narcotics investigator who worked on the case. "It appears the
object was to get them to stop their investigation, and it
appears that worked."
The head of the DEA's Houston division denied that the
investigation has been shelved and said that Agent Schumacher
was transferred because he was needed elsewhere.
"It's an active investigation – still going on. ...The
investigation has not been stopped," said DEA Agent Ernest L.
Howard. "I'm the agent in charge of the whole division. I'm
the guy who would know."
But other Houston drug investigators said that Agent Howard
made it clear to them last September that the case was over.
DEA Administrator Donnie Marshall in Washington said Friday
that he never ordered the case stopped. He said he reviewed
the case after receiving Ms. Waters' complaint and determined
that the drug investigation was valid.
"Nobody ever put any political pressure on me to close down
this investigation, nor did I put any pressure on Mr. Howard,"
he said. The agency chief added that he did not order Agent
Schumacher's transfer and was told by Agent Howard that it was
being done for the agent's own protection.
Agent Schumacher, 48, referred questions about the drug
case to his DEA superiors. Asked about his reassignment, he
said he was moved against his will on March 14 from active
enforcement and was told he was being transferred at the
request of DEA officials in Washington. He said he was never
told that anyone feared that he was in personal or civil
jeopardy. "All I was told is that it was a very, very
Mr. Prince, 35, has long maintained that neither he nor his
company has ever done anything illegal and that he has been
unfairly targeted by law enforcement agents because he is
wealthy and black.
'88 cocaine bust
Federal and local interest in Mr. Prince dates back to
1988, when a car with dealer license plates from a used-car
lot he owned in Houston was stopped near El Paso, records
show. Authorities found 76 kilograms of cocaine in a hidden
compartment, and one Houston man was convicted in the case.
His companion, a cousin of Mr. Prince's who carried a card
identifying himself as a salesman for the car lot, was later
released. Mr. Prince later helped the wife of the jailed man
set up a bail-bond company, which is still housed in
Rap-A-Lot's office building, records show.
The seizure prompted authorities to open a drug case in
Houston just as Mr. Prince was becoming known for promoting
explicit "gangsta" rap. The investigation slowed after it drew
attention in 1993, when Mr. Prince publicly complained that he
had been harassed.
Mr. Prince was arrested twice on minor drug and weapons
charges that were later dropped, and his label subsequently
released a 1993 Geto Boys CD that contained lyrics in which
the rappers threaten to shoot local police. Mr. Prince
personally complained on the best-selling album of a DEA
"conspiracy" to target his record label.
The album's hit video "Crooked Officer" was banned by MTV
because it depicted the shooting of a police officer. In 1996,
that song and the group's other raps became a presidential
campaign issue when Republican Bob Dole cited the Geto boys as
an example of declining American mores.
The federal investigation moved slowly until 1998, when the
DEA formed a task force with police. Several Rap-A-Lot
employees were soon arrested, as was a Houston police officer
later convicted on federal civil rights charges for using his
patrol car to help a Rap-A-Lot employee try to rob a drug
Mr. Prince and his associates soon began filing new
complaints alleging police brutality and racism. In one, it
was alleged that Houston police used excessive force and made
racist remarks when stopping a Rap-A-Lot van – an allegation
that officials said was ruled unfounded.
On Aug. 20, 1999, Ms. Waters phoned Ms. Reno and wrote her
office to allege a racist conspiracy against Mr. Prince and
his associates by "rogue" agents.
A powerful Democrat who headed the Black Congressional
Caucus in 1997 and 1998, Ms. Waters wrote that Mr. Prince had
contacted her because of her aggressive criticism of racial
profiling and her work "surrounding the intelligence
Ms. Waters gained national attention in the mid-'90s with
her accusations that the CIA had helped launch the U.S. crack
The letter stated: "Simply put, Mr. Prince believes
strongly that the Department of Justice must intercede into
the questionable practices of DEA and provide him with the
necessary protection to ensure that his life and livelihood
are not subjected to ongoing harassment and intimidation."
In September 1999, the chief of the DEA's Office of
Professional Responsibility agreed to personally interview Mr.
Prince in Ms. Waters' Washington congressional office, federal
officials said. There for the interview were Mr. Prince's
lawyer, the congresswoman and her husband, Sidney Williams.
A former Los Angeles car salesman and professional football
player who served as U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas in the mid
'90s, Mr. Williams graduated from high school and still owns a
house in Houston's 5th Ward, the childhood neighborhood of Mr.
Prince and some of his associates. He and Ms. Waters were
married in Houston in 1977.
"It's not unusual to have an attorney present. But having a
member of Congress? A congressional spouse? That's totally
unheard of," said one federal official who spoke on condition
of anonymity. "In DEA, we normally never have direct contact
with Congress in one of our internal-affairs investigations or
in an active criminal case."
Ms. Waters had a court reporter record the interview, in
which she warned that she would hold the federal agency
responsible if anything happened to Mr. Prince, said officials
who reviewed meeting transcripts. She specifically complained
about Mr. Schumacher, citing his involvement in the six fatal
shootings – one as a DEA agent and five while he was a Houston
police narcotics investigator.
Drug investigators in Houston said Agent Howard, the
Houston DEA chief, came to their office in mid-September 1999
and told more than a dozen investigators that the case was
being halted by Washington.
"Mr. Howard even gave us the date and time we were stopping
it," said Houston police Sgt. Bill Stephens, a narcotics
investigator who supervised the seven other local officers on
the case. "He made it very clear that he was serious, and
there was no longer any DEA support."
Mr. Nims, the DEA official who supervised Mr. Schumacher
and his colleagues, wrote in a Sept. 27, 1999, memo that Agent
Howard had recently ordered him and his investigators "not to
pursue any new leads regarding [James Prince], Rap-A-Lot, et.
al. ... This is unfortunate because there are still many
investigative leads and enforcement operations to carry out."
The supervisor wrote that he could personally refute Mr.
Prince's allegations of brutality and racism because he had
been involved in every enforcement operation.
"It appears that [Mr. Prince] has a pattern of manipulating
influential people when investigators get too close to him,"
the memo stated. "He would not be doing this if he did not
feel threatened because of our successes."
Mr. Nims referred questions about the case to Agent Howard.
Officials with direct knowledge of the inquiry said there
has since been virtually no new investigative activity.
"There is nobody out on the streets working, doing the
normal things that you would do in an active investigation.
We're sitting," said one official who spoke on condition of
anonymity. "Nobody is out beating the bushes, and there hasn't
been for quite a while."
Agent Howard said the agency's Office of Professional
Responsibility has found no evidence of racism or brutality by
Agent Schumacher or other agents on the case. DEA officials in
Washington said the internal inquiry is under routine review
and should be completed soon.
Ms. Waters' office has since asked repeatedly for updates
on the DEA internal review, officials said.
Gore visits church
Sgt. Stephens and others in Houston said Agent
Schumacher's transfer came within three days of Vice President
Al Gore's visit to a Houston church that had been scrutinized
during the Rap-A-Lot investigation because of its high level
of financial support from Mr. Prince. The church's pastor told
a local magazine last year that the church had named a chapel
for Mr. Prince because of his donation of $1 million.
Ralph Douglas West, pastor of the Church Without Walls,
said he was familiar with the long history of accusations
about Mr. Prince. He said the allegations are unwarranted and
he added that Mr. Prince's businesses have no relation to the
"James Prince, I think, personally has been unfairly
targeted or profiled as being corrupt or illicit or illegal in
his business dealings. ... He is one of the faithful members
of this church, and not just as a business person but as an
active member of this church."
Mr. Gore's campaign communications office said the vice
president knows nothing of the matter.
Sgt. Stephens said he and other local officers heard from
federal counterparts that DEA officials transferred the agent
to ensure that he did no more work on a case that had already
provoked Ms. Waters and could pose a greater potential
"The consensus was that it was a political move that was
based on Gore's visiting that church, mostly because of the
timing. Nothing had changed involving Jack. All of a sudden,
he's abruptly moved," Sgt. Stephens said. "The word we got
from all of the DEA agents was that the idea to move him came
not from anyone local or from Mr. Howard, but from D.C. – from
the top at DEA."
Federal officials noted that Agent Schumacher's transfer
also came as Mr. Marshall, then the DEA's acting
administrator, was awaiting senate confirmation hearings that
led to his becoming permanent head of the agency.
Agent Howard said he was aware of Mr. Gore's visit and was
told afterward that Mr. Prince was there. But he said the
timing of Agent Schumacher's transfer had nothing to do with
politics and was solely his decision.
"Washington had nothing to do with Jack Schumacher getting
transferred," Agent Howard said.
Mr. Marshall said Agent Howard decided to move the agent to
avoid the chance that he might be involved in a confrontation
with Mr. Prince or his associates after Ms. Waters complained
"There were allegations that ... Mr. Prince feared [that
the agent] would set him up in a situation where he could do
him physical harm and kill him," Mr. Marshall said. "If he
were to continue with this investigation and then, God forbid,
some situation develop ... it was our fear that he would be
He added that he had thought the agent was moved late last
fall. "By March, this thing was really off of my radar screen
as any kind of an issue," he said. "I can tell you we wouldn't
transfer anybody based on a political request."
Investigators say that a once-promising case is now
derailed, that they and their informants are being threatened
and that a rap star is publicly boasting of ruining agents'
Some officers say they are concerned about the treatment of
Agent Schumacher, who had been handpicked by Agent Howard to
lead the Rap-A-Lot inquiry. They said he has won awards for
his aggressive work, has taught police training courses across
Texas and served in 1999 as president of the Texas Narcotics
"This was not a racist investigation. I'm black. Jack is
definitely not a racist," said Mr. Harris. "The only thing he
hates is crooks."
A federal trial of one Rap-A-Lot employee ended in a
hung jury in April after a star prosecution witness had been
threatened by a courtroom spectator while testifying. A juror
later complained that another spectator was trying to write
down the juror's car license number, records state. The
Rap-A-Lot employee, described by investigators as a gang
enforcer, was acquitted in a second trial but remains jailed
pending a federal appeal and resolution of state charges.
Rap-A-Lot's newest CD release, from one of the label's
best-known recording artists, names the two DEA agents who led
the agency's Rap-A-Lot inquiry and his partner, adding,
"comin' in here, making a [expletive] case? Bitch, I'll ruin
The artist, "Scarface" Jordan – who first gained fame as a
member of Rap-A-Lot's Geto Boys – pleaded guilty in 1999 to
misdemeanor marijuana charges arising from the DEA's inquiry.
Songs already available on the Internet from the new CD,
Last of a Dying Breed, contain repeated
references to police trying to get "J" – a nickname for James
Prince. Scarface also declares himself "a Rap-A-Lot mobster,"
denounces snitches and threatens bullets for federal agents
who invade his turf.
In one song, he complains that he "can't get no peace,
'cause Shumacher's been chasin' me," and denounces by name the
DEA informant whose information led to his arrest. In that
song he also declares that he was framed and does not sell
The rap that declares, "We can't be stopped, even by a
badge" ends with the simulated sounds of a DEA informant's
In another song – which police say reads like a direct
threat to those who have already informed for the DEA in the
Rap-A-Lot inquiry and those who might – the rapper sings that
he and his group can reach and kill informants, even in jail.
"I'm tellin' you dog, that even if you getting relief, how
the [expletive] is you gonna live on these streets, if you got
that jacket on your back – you a rat?" Scarface raps in the
song "Watch Ya Step." "You don't spill your guts."