By Teresa Ambord
Like so many celebrities, the rap star who calls himself Fat Joe got behind on his taxes. But unlike many famous tax deadbeats, he's willing to take responsibility for his own blunder instead of blaming his handlers or lashing out at authorities.
A few days before Christmas, Fat Joe appeared in a Newark, New Jersey, federal court and pleaded guilty to charges of failure to pay taxes – to the tune of $718,038 – on about $3 million of income earned in 2007 and 2008.
The forty-two-year-old rapper, whose real name is Joseph Cartagena, is a resident of Miami Beach, Florida. The charges, however, were filed in New Jersey because his income was derived from his ownership in two New Jersey–based companies, Terror Squad Productions, Inc. and Miramar Music Touring, Inc. He also had income from a company known as FJTS Corp.
Cartagena is currently free on bail, which was set at $250,000. If convicted, he could face two years in prison and a fine of up to $200,000, plus penalties from the IRS.
While in court, US Magistrate Cathy Waldor asked Cartagena if he understood the charges. He answered",I super-understand it." His attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, said his client "had already taken steps to resolve the situation" before the charges were brought. He said Cartagena hopes to pay what he owes by April 3, the date of his sentencing.
Not only did Cartagena admit his tax failure, he's also turning his life around in more fundamental ways. Following the death of fellow rappers who succumbed to obesity-related diseases, he embarked on a program to slim down his rotund body. He has been very vocal about his weight loss efforts, including visiting schoolchildren in Newark, hoping to influence them about the importance of health and wellness. Of course . . . if this keeps up, Fat Joe may have to come up with a new name.
Cartagena is a platinum-selling artist who once topped the Billboard charts. One of his biggest hits was the duet "What's Luv", with R&B singer Ashanti. He has also released a number of successful singles. Recently, Cartagena has made less news for his music than for his ongoing feud with fellow rapper 50 Cent. But 50 Cent told reporters the feud is over, and neither of them can really remember what started the dispute nearly ten years ago.
It's been more than two years since Cartagena released his last solo album, The Darkside Vol. 1, but he's gearing up now to release an eleventh album, said mtv.com, the proceeds of which should help him extinguish his tax debt and continue turning over a new leaf.
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