ATLANTA - Grammy-winning rapper T.I. was arrested Saturday - just hours before he was to take the stage at the BET Hip-Hop Awards - in a shopping center parking lot where federal officials said he planned to pick up machine guns and silencers he had his bodyguard buy for him.
The arrest resulted from an investigation that began this month when a federal firearms dealer contacted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives about a man inquiring about buying a machine gun without registering the weapon as required, according to a criminal complaint filed Saturday in U.S. District Court in Atlanta.
T.I., born Clifford Harris, is charged with possession of unregistered machine guns and silencers, as well as possession of firearms by a convicted felon. Harris is in federal custody, said U.S. attorney's office spokesman Patrick Crosby, who would not disclose his location.
After attempting to purchase several machine guns from an undercover ATF agent, the unnamed individual - who said he had been working as a bodyguard for Harris since July - was arrested and began cooperating with the government and said that he was buying the machine guns and silencers for Harris. According to the bodyguard, he had purchased approximately nine firearms for Harris and the rapper had given him cash to buy guns on four different occasions.
Harris allegedly brokered the deals through the bodyguard because he is a convicted felon. It is a violation of federal law for a convicted felon to have another person purchase or acquire firearms on their behalf.
According to federal authorities, on Wednesday, T.I. arranged for the bodyguard to pick up $12,000 in cash from a SunTrust Bank in Atlanta and to use the funds to purchase machine guns for Harris. The next day, the two agreed to meet on Saturday to exchange the cash for the weapons. T.I. has had additional arrests and at least one probation violation for unlawfully possessing firearms, authorities said.
After his arrest in the shopping center parking lot, shortly after 2 p.m. on Saturday, agents found three firearms in the vehicle T.I. was driving, including a loaded firearm between the driver's seat and center console, according to the complaint.
As the BET Hip-Hop Awards were being taped in Atlanta on Saturday night, federal authorities were still executing a search warrant at T.I.'s home. He had been expected to perform at the show and was nominated in nine categories.