The former chart-topping rap star known as "Fat Joe'' was sentenced to four months in prison Monday over his earlier admission that he failed to file federal income taxes for two years.
The platinum-selling artist, whose real name is Joseph Cartagena, apologized to his family and supporters during his sentencing Monday in federal court in Newark, N.J.
The 42-year-old resident of Miami Beach, Fla., and Tenafly, N.J., pleaded guilty in December to failing to pay taxes on more than $1 million of income in 2007 and in 2008.
U.S. Magistrate Cathy Waldor said she took into account for sentencing the government's allegation that Cartagena failed to pay taxes on some $3 million in income for the years 2007 through 2010. Federal prosecutors said the total tax loss to the government for those four years was $718,038.
The case was prosecuted in New Jersey because some of the companies he earns money from; including his Somerville, N.J.-based Terror Squad Production Inc., and Miramar Music Touring Inc., are incorporated in the state. He also earned income from FJTS Corp., during the time in question.
In a courtroom packed with family members and supporters, Cartagena looked fit and considerably slimmer than the size that had earned him his rap moniker. He has been very public about his efforts to shed weight after fellow rap stars died from obesity-related issues, and has spoken to schoolchildren, in New Jersey and elsewhere about the importance of health and fitness.
Apologizing to the court and his family and supporters, Cartagena spoke of growing up in a housing project in the Bronx in New York City surrounded by guns, drugs and "violence all around.''
"I did everything I could to achieve what I could, to move my family; I tried to stay positive, focus on the positive, and get myself out,'' he said. He spoke of how many family members he supported and how he tried to give back to his community.
"I guess I'm surprised, caused I worked so hard to not end up in court, that I'm here,'' he said. "This is the last place I thought I would be.''
The rapper once topped the Billboard 100 chart with hits like the duet "What's Luv'' with the R&B singer Ashanti. He said he had recently signed a record deal in hopes of making money to pay back his arrears.
Defense Attorney Jeffrey Lichtman said outside federal court that Cartagena had liquidated his retirement account to start paying the money back.
In addition to the prison term, Cartagena was sentenced to one year of supervised release and fined $15,000. He must report to prison by Aug. 26.
The federal courthouse in Newark has recently been the setting for several tax cases involving well-known musicians.
The Grammy-winning singer Lauryn Hill was sentenced in May to three months in prison for failing to pay about $1 million in taxes over the past decade. Two sons of the founders of the Sugar Hill Records hip-hop recording label were sentenced in May to probation for failing to file taxes.