Detroit — Rapper Doughboy Roc was under federal investigation and had more than $55,000 seized by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents months before being shot to death Monday, The Detroit News has learned.
Court records and sources familiar with the federal investigation offer insight into the final months of the 29-year-old rapper, real name Rodney Yeargin, who gained local fame within the music industry while striving for mainstream success.
It’s unclear whether there’s any connection between the homicide and the seizure of money or the DEA investigation. The status of the federal investigation was unclear Thursday.
Drug dealing and the rap industry have overlapped in high-profile federal investigations locally in recent years. In March, The News reported that DEA agents were investigating Detroit music mogul Brian Brown after an informant identified the BMB Records owner as one of the largest heroin dealers in the Midwest who was using the rap label to launder drug money.
Though the full scope of the DEA investigation was unclear Thursday, sources familiar with the probe said federal agents stopped Yeargin on Feb. 28 at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Agents seized $55,573 in cash before Yeargin could board a flight.
Yeargin was never charged with a federal crime and initially signed a form claiming most of the money — $54,800 found in his luggage — did not belong to him, according to Oakland County Circuit Court records obtained by The News.
The money was seized because investigators believed the cash either was going to be used to buy drugs or linked to a drug deal, Assistant Oakland County Prosecutor Anne Gabbert wrote in a court filing.
Gabbert filed a lawsuit to have the money forfeited to Oakland County in April. The case is pending and is being handled in Oakland County because the DEA task force detective involved in the seizure works for Waterford Township Police.
“It is against Department of Justice policy to confirm or deny an existing investigation,” DEA spokesman Rich Isaacson told The News.
Yeargin was flying with the cash to buy a car in Arizona, said attorney Ivan Land. He filed a request to reclaim the money in May — three months after the seizure.
Yeargin earned the money through selling rap CDs and concert performances, the lawyer said.
“My client was not a drug dealer,” Land said. “He was a successful artist.”
Yeargin’s destination in Arizona was unclear, his lawyer said.
Travelers can fly from Detroit Metropolitan Airport to several cities in Arizona, including Phoenix and Tucson. Both are considered by federal drug agents as source cities for large shipments of narcotics to Metro Detroit due to the cities’ close proximity to the U.S.-Mexican border
Land spoke to the rapper three days before the shooting to prepare for reclaiming the money. The attorney had told prosecutors about the source of the cash and a planned vehicle purchase in Arizona, he said.
“They said ‘prove it,’ ” Land said. “We were in the middle of working it out.”
Land does not believe the shooting was drug-related and disputed that Yeargin was being investigated by federal drug agents.
“I don’t think that if a person was in some type of trouble that they would be out in the open like that,” Land said.
Two months after the cash seizure, Yeargin faced a separate legal challenge.
On April 8, he was hit with two cocaine charges in Wayne County, including a 20-year felony, but caught a break.
Instead of 20 years in prison, prosecutors offered Yeargin a deal to plead guilty to attempted delivery/manufacture of less than 50 grams of cocaine. His sentencing guidelines recommended a term of seven-to-23 months in state prison and included the possibility of probation.
Judge Dana Hathaway, instead, sentenced Yeargin to two years’ probation, according to Wayne County Circuit Court records.
“He was allowed to plead and a sentence of probation would be in line with that type of plea,” said Maria Miller, an assistant prosecutor with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.
Yeargin’s criminal defense lawyer, Kareem LaMount Johnson, was aware of the cash seized by federal agents.
“It was my understanding that all of that money had been lawfully gained,” Johnson said Thursday. “It was just a matter of a young hip hop artist who likes to carry cash.”
The shooting shocked Johnson.
“Oh, man, he was such a good kid,” he said. “The last time I had contact with Mr. Yeargin, he was working solely on music.”
The conviction was at least Yeargin’s third serious crime.
In 2011, he was convicted of carrying a weapon with unlawful intent and felony firearm.
After being sentenced for the drug crime in June, Yeargin was ordered to wear a tether until mid-September. He posted a photo of the tether and low-top white Nike Air Force One sneakers on Instagram on Sept. 14 with the hashtag #blessed.
Four weeks later, he was dead.
Detroit police officers found his bullet-ridden body in a white Hyundai near Stoepel and Westfield Monday afternoon on the city’s west side.
He appeared to have been shot in his right ear and shoulder, police said.
Soon after the news broke that the rapper had been killed, the neighborhood filled with authorities and mourners and tributes from fellow musicians flooded social media.
Monday’s incident is the second fatal shooting in three months involving well-known Detroit rappers. In July, Dominique Brown and Ramell Campbell, known as Domo Brown and 47 Mell, respectively, were killed in a drive-by shooting while driving east on Interstate 94 near Livernois. Police said that killing was the result of an ongoing feud.
George Hunter contributed.