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Monday, March 12, 2018

Juelz Santana Set To Turn Himself In

Rapper Juelz Santana, who police say fled after a loaded gun was found in his bag at a Newark Liberty Airport checkpoint, is considering turning himself in, a source familiar with the investigation said Sunday.

Santana, who lives in Totowa, has had a representative contact authorities to discuss surrendering, the source said.

It was not clear Sunday afternoon when Santana would turn himself in to police. The Port Authority police did not immediately respond to requests for information about the matter.

Police have been searching for Santana since Friday night, when he eluded security agents and left the airport by hopping into a taxicab.

Santana, a former Teaneck resident, submitted a carry-on bag for an X-ray inspection at the C-1 security checkpoint, which leads to airport gates in Terminal C, at 6:05 p.m. Friday. A Transportation Security Administration agent noticed the bag contained a firearm and called Port Authority police, according to authorities.

Both the TSA and the Port Authority declined to confirm that Santana was the suspect involved in the airport incident. But police in Totowa confirmed Saturday that they had been to the rapper's home at 11 p.m. Friday regarding the airport incident.

Capt. Carl Cifaldi said that no one was home when police arrived.

Santana, whose given name is LaRon Louis James, was convicted of three indictable offenses stemming from three separate incidents in 2011, according to state court records.

New Jersey law bars convicted felons from having weapons. Transportation authorities said that carrying a handgun to a federal checkpoint carries a civil penalty and fine of up to $13,000.

Santana was scheduled to perform Saturday night at The Grand Nightclub in San Francisco, according to an advertisement for the performance. The performance was canceled but a related birthday celebration was set to go on as planned, according to the host of the event.

The host, who would only provide his first name, Mark, when contacted by phone Saturday, said the celebration is for "a friend." He added that he found out about the airport incident from friends sending him text messages on Friday night.

"It's 2018 — I don't know how he thought that would be OK," he said of allegations that Santana went through a security checkpoint with a gun.

Law enforcement authorities did not immediately specify where Santana was going.

Santana, a founding member of the rap group "The Diplomats," has been living since last year on Totowa's Hamilton Trail, a street lined with stately, three-story homes, according to neighbors.

Residents said he is a good neighbor who lives quietly with his wife and children. One said the area was abuzz when Santana's wife announced on a TV show that the family was moving to the neighborhood, and that a production crew showed up this past summer to make a music video at the star's home.

No one answered the door at Santana's home on late Saturday afternoon. Several other residents declined comment or said they didn't know anything about the rapper.

Santana was featured on a song titled "Bloody Mary" that was released in late January by rap star Lil Wayne, who posted on Instagram earlier this year: "Me and my Brother @thejuelzsantana back at it!"

Seven years ago, Santana was the target of a gang investigation by the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office and other law enforcement agencies. He was charged in February 2011 with multiple weapons and drug offenses, including possession of a weapon without a permit, after authorities executed a search warrant at his Bergenfield recording studio.

Police found two loaded 9 mm handguns, an unspecified amount of ammunition, and 17 plastic bags containing suspected marijuana and drug paraphernalia, according to an article in The Record.

At the time, authorities said they believed Santana was a member of the Bloods street gang, and that he and associates had been distributing drugs from the studio for some time. The arrest culminated a 10-month investigation, they said.

Santana pleaded guilty to a fourth-degree marijuana distribution charge as a result of that arrest, according to court records.

He also pleaded guilty to two other offenses stemming from separate 2011 incidents. He pleaded guilty to third-degree making a terroristic threat to commit a crime of violence after an incident during which he was also charged with violating a restraining order. In a another incident, he pleaded guilty to fourth-degree obstruction of the administration of law.

He was sentenced to two years of probation for each of those offenses in 2013.

On Saturday, the Transportation Security Administration said in an email that one of its officers "froze the bag safely inside the X-Ray tunnel" after spotting the gun during routine screening.

"Upon our discovery of the firearm, the individual left the checkpoint and went back into the public area," leaving the carry-on bag containing the gun at the checkpoint, the TSA said in the email.

The Port Authority issued a statement saying that "a passenger walked out the exit of the C-1 security checkpoint at Newark Airport" on Friday night, leaving behind two bags. They said authorities recovered a loaded Derringer .38-caliber handgun and that the suspect "is believed to have left Newark Airport by taxicab."

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