- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Baltimore native Darrin Ebron, known to some in Hollywood as “the poor man’s Puffy” for his fashion and entertainment businesses that endear him to stars such as Kanye West, Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake, has been accused in a suspected drug-smuggling operation that moved hundreds of pounds of cocaine to Baltimore, court records show.

Mr. Ebron, who “kept the guests dancing” as the disc jockey when actor Eddie Murphy exchanged wedding vows with Tracey Edmonds in 2008 on a private island off Bora Bora, is named in a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Los Angeles as part of a drug conspiracy that shipped cocaine aboard private planes from Los Angeles to Baltimore for later distribution along the East Coast.

As any fashionista, clubgoer or celebrity can attest, “when the art worlds collide, explosive things can happen,” a mantra of Mr. Ebron’s, who boasts on his website that music, art and fashion give his life “its fireworks.” The owner and designer of Goodlife American Clothing and a graduate of the New York Hip Hop scene, where he cut his teeth at BadBoy Records and Def Jam and later was hired as a contractor by Ms. Edmonds of the Edmonds Entertainment Group, Mr. Ebron has lived that mantra.

“I believe living the Good Life means developing a self-awareness and having a daily spirit of gratitude,” he writes on his website. “It’s knowing what works for you and creating your own set of rules.”

According to the complaint, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, Mr. Ebron and eight suspected co-conspirators were caught on surveillance and wiretaps plotting to distribute “large quantities of cocaine” to Baltimore, where Mr. Ebron was described as one of the “primary distributors.”

Mr. Ebron did not return calls to his public relations company for comment.

The complaint, which authorizes Mr. Ebron’s arrest, says the drugs were received from a Los Angeles supplier named Heriberto “Big Dog” Lopez and flown to Baltimore in 100-plus pound loads in private planes chartered by a Maryland man, Ricky James Brascom, who then arranged for the cash from the sale of the drugs to be flown back to Los Angeles.

Mr. Brascom and another Maryland native, Charles Dwight Ransom Jr. — also identified in the complaint as a cocaine supplier in Baltimore — have separate apartments in the same complex in Hollywood, where detectives observed them in late September meet with “three Hispanic male occupants” in an underground, gated parking garage. Intercepted phone calls show that Mr. Ransom received nearly 40 pounds of cocaine from Mr. Brascom’s supplier during that meeting and then left for Ontario International Airport in California.

During a refueling stop in Kansas, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents searched the baggage compartment under the ruse of a random police check and seized more than 100 pounds of cocaine. While still aboard the plane, Mr. Ransom called Mr. Brascom and was heard on a wiretapped call saying he was “scared” and he’d have “a big ass bill to pay,” to which Mr. Brascom replied, “you and me both.”

Later that day, DEA agents say they heard Mr. Brascom and Mr. Ebron discuss a purchase of more than 80 pounds of cocaine for which Mr. Ebron would owe $900,000, a sum he said he would have the next time he saw Mr. Brascom, the complaint said.

Less than three days later, the complaint said associates of Mr. Brascom “escorted” more than 250 pounds of cocaine on a chartered flight to Baltimore. DEA agents say in the complaint that the suspects used coded language on the telephone, often referring to the load of cocaine as “the girl.” Return charter flights were used to transport as much as $1.2 million in cash at a time, the complaint states.

Mr. Brascom and his “right-hand man,” Jerome Brascom, are among the four suspects in the alleged conspiracy who had been arrested by Tuesday evening. Suspects include a charter-plane pilot named Leonardo Concepcion of Downey, Calif.

Mr. Ebron’s residence “has not been identified,” the complaint states, and he had not been arrested at press time. The DEA declined to comment, except to indicate that the investigation is ongoing.

Music has been at the center of Mr. Ebron’s world “since he was a child growing up in Baltimore,” his website states. He claims he is classically trained in four instruments and has a collection of at least 70,000 albums. Mr. Ebron, 43, put himself through college by working as a DJ, the site says.

After graduation from college, according to his website, “the NY music scene became Ebron’s higher education” at Def Jam, BadBoy and Roc-A-Fella records. The website says he landed at a company founded by Ms. Edmonds and her ex-husband, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, where “everything from album covers to ad campaigns to the artists’ wardrobes came under his scrutiny.”

A spokeswoman for Ms. Edmonds said on Tuesday that Mr. Ebron was hired as an independent contractor DJ for events.

Mr. Ebron’s career as a DJ has landed him high-profile events for major R&B and hip hop artists, and “coveted Grammy and Oscar after-parties.” In 2004, he began his own music production company.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ebron also has made his way as a fashion designer. Goodlife American Clothing has had offices in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Beverly Hills, Calif., and he has devoted substantial time to developing a look he describes as “casual luxury.”

“His own best muse, Ebron has fused together the emotion of a beautiful piece of art, the vibrancy of a rich color palette and the lavish feel of a fine textile to create a luxurious assortment of women’s tee shirts,” his site boasts.

But Maryland court records show Mr. Ebron has a rougher side. In the 1990s, he was charged more than a half-dozen times with crimes ranging from assault, battery and disturbance of the peace to passing bad checks — though few of the charges resulted in criminal penalties.

In a 2002 lawsuit accusing Tracey and Kenneth Edmonds of sex discrimination, a former employee alleged that Mr. Ebron offered her money to abort a pregnancy allegedly caused by one of the label’s artists. The Edmonds’ later countersued, claiming the lawsuit was an extortion attempt. On Tuesday, a spokeswoman said Mr. Ebron had acted on his own in the matter.

Then, in 2008, Mr. Ebron mailed more than 10 pounds of cocaine to New York where it was seized, according to the criminal complaint. However, he was not arrested in what the complaint said was a decision to protect the ongoing investigation.

Mr. Ebron’s suspected involvement in the Los Angeles-based cocaine ring came to a head last month, according to the complaint, when intercepted calls and surveillance placed him at Jerry’s Famous Deli in Los Angeles, where he met with Mr. Brascom and Mr. Lopez to discuss an additional $50,000 that Mr. Lopez thought he was owed.

On Oct. 13, DEA agents say they listened to a call during which Mr. Ebron assured Mr. Brascom that his East Coast distribution team was ready to receive more drug shipments.

“We on it,” Mr. Ebron said, according to the complaint. “We gonna keep it pushin’.”