Feds say R. Kelly controlled bank account with $1.2M despite claiming lack of funds

Investigators wound up finding bank records belonging to one of Kelly’s attorneys. But the singer’s legal team says the feds went on a “harassing fishing expedition.”

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R. Kelly walks out of the Daley Center after an appearance in child support court in March 2019.

R. Kelly walks out of the Daley Center after an appearance in child support court in March 2019.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Federal prosecutors say a bank account controlled by R&B singer R. Kelly received at least $1.2 million last year and was created shortly after the singer was charged with sex crimes in Cook County Circuit Court.

They also say Kelly opened the bank account in the name of a nominee, and, in recorded jail calls, the singer appears to have directed people to contact that person “to receive payments indirectly from Kelly.”

That, in part, is what prosecutors say investigators were looking into when they unexpectedly wound up with bank records belonging to an attorney representing Kelly in federal court in Brooklyn. Kelly’s defense team accused the feds last month of an “unreasonable, intimidating, and harassing fishing expedition into the records of Mr. Kelly’s current counsel.”

They did so after discovering federal prosecutors had obtained bank records from Kelly’s attorneys and a law firm that once represented Kelly, records show.

Kelly is accused in federal court in Chicago of child pornography and obstruction of justice, while a separate federal indictment in Brooklyn accuses him of racketeering. Though Kelly is set to go to trial in both districts this fall, it is unclear whether either case will go forward. Prosecutors in Chicago sought Monday to delay the trial here.

Meanwhile, Kelly has spent more than a year in federal custody at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago, and he has for months argued he should be set free amid the coronavirus pandemic. His lawyers are now challenging his detention in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In making their argument that he should go free, Kelly’s lawyers have said the singer does not have the money needed to flee. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Angel Krull wrote in a court filing Tuesday that bank records obtained by government investigators refute that notion.

Krull wrote that Kelly last year opened a bank account in the name of an individual who also incorporated a business called SomeBrotherLuv LLC in March 2019. The next month, she said Kelly assigned his music royalties to the company, and Kelly’s royalties began to flow into its account.

“It does not appear that Kelly received consideration in return for assigning his rights to the royalty payments,” Krull wrote.

Investigators subpoenaed records for the account, she wrote, to determine how the money was being used. Specifically, investigators wanted to know if the money was being used for bribes, or if the money was being diverted to help Kelly avoid financial penalties.

That account received at least $1.2 million in 2019, Krull wrote. When investigators sought more records to help them trace payments from the account to unidentified recipients, they discovered that one recipient was an attorney for Kelly.

A prior filing from Kelly’s legal team shows an attorney representing Kelly received $2,500 from SomeBrotherLuv in May 2019 for representation in a civil case.

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