Singer R. Kelly is facing federal criminal charges related to the sexual exploitation of children. U.S Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard P. Donoghue accused him, as well as his employees and entourage, of a "racketeering enterprise that preyed upon women and girls who attended his concerts so that the victims could be available to engage in illegal sexual activity with him at a moment’s notice."
Kelly, currently awaiting trial in Illinois for sexual abuse and sexual assault, was taken into custody in Chicago on Thursday night by members of the NYPD and Homeland Security. He was reportedly walking his dog near his Trump Tower apartment when he was arrested.
The charges from the Eastern District include "racketeering predicated on criminal conduct including sexual exploitation of children, kidnapping, forced labor and Mann Act violations involving the coercion and transportation of women and girls in interstate commerce to engage in illegal sexual activity," as well as four counts of violating the Mann Act "related to his interstate transportation of a victim to New York to engage in illegal sexual activity, and his exposure of her to an infectious venereal disease without her knowledge," per a press release from the U.S. Attorney's office.
A source in Homeland Security Investigations told Page Six how the new charges were prompted by "an agent on our trafficking unit... watching that Lifetime show, Surviving R. Kelly."
“They were looking at the victims’ interviews” and realized that “this is so much bigger than [what] he has previously been charged with,” the source said, adding that the probe was launched in January.
“It was just from watching these interviews in this documentary,” according to the source, who said that agents then traveled to interview the alleged victims.
The Lifetime documentary, which featured harrowing interviews with women who said Kelly sexually abused them, prompted calls for his music labels to drop him.
The U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Illinois also unsealed an indictment for Kelly on federal child pornography and obstruction charges on Friday.
Accusations about Kelly's behavior had circulated for decades before this year's criminal charges. Kelly was known for his relationships with girls and young women—he married the late singer Aaliyah when she was 15 —and he was tried, and then acquitted, on child pornography charges. Many say that the accusers were ignored for years and that Kelly had been protected by his entourage.
Investigative reporter Jim DeRogatis, who was part of a Chicago Sun-Times team that reported on allegations of Kelly as a sexual predator in 2000, has been following Kelly, and his alleged victims, for years. In 2017, he reported on the parents who claimed their daughter was being held against her will by the singer, initiating a new wave of attention and other women coming forward about Kelly's "cult" and his "brainwashing" of young women.
R. Kelly's sex ring was tightly controlled and wide-ranging, prosecutors say. The allegations here echo @JimDeRogatis' reporting on the singer's "cult" https://t.co/AX630cbCCZ pic.twitter.com/jRFYJWs6Ln
— Noah Manskar (@noahmanskar) July 12, 2019
In March, when questioned about the many allegations by Gayle King on CBS News, Kelly insisted, "Believe me, man! This is not me! They lying on me! They're lying on me! I'm cool, bro!"
HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Angel Melendez said in a statement, "R. Kelly’s Enterprise was not only engaged in music; as alleged, for two decades the enterprise at the direction of R. Kelly preyed upon young women and teenagers whose dreams of meeting a superstar, soon turned into a nightmare of rape, child pornography and forced labor. The musician turned predator allegedly used his stardom to coax some victims into nefarious sex acts while certain members of his enterprise calculatingly facilitated the aberrant conduct."
"This indictment makes clear that fame and power will not shield anyone from prosecution, particularly predators who victimize vulnerable members of our communities for their own sexual gratification," U.S. Attorney Donoghue said.
If convicted, Kelly could face up to 20 years in prison for the racketeering and two Mann Act counts and up to 10 years for each Mann Act Transportation count.
From the U.S. Attorney's office: "If you believe you are a victim of criminal activity perpetrated by Robert Kelly, please contact HSI at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (1-866-347-2423) or by logging on to www.ice.gov/webform/HSI-top-form. This service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All information will be kept strictly confidential."