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Others in the camp, though, speculate that the ATF is focusing on Diggs. Diggs has been known to Steubenville law enforcement since 1991, when the then 22-year-old shot Willie Walters in the leg following a dispute in which Walters kicked Diggs's car. Charged with felonious assault, Diggs claimed he fired in self-defense and he was ultimately acquitted. "I guess I wasn't that good a prosecutor back then," says Chris Becker, who brought the case to court.
Since then, Wu members have had numerous well-publicized legal run-ins. In October 1997, Method Man was charged with assault after blindsiding and knocking unconscious a Palladium bouncer. Though the charges were later dropped, the Wu-Tang Clan was banned from Peter Gatien's clubs because of the incident. In December 1997, Ghostface Killah was busted in Harlem for carrying a .357 Magnumthe same model that Wisegod flashed at the Cripsloaded with hollow-point bullets. He also pled guilty in a 1995 robbery case, and last year served four months of a six-month sentence. Then, in January 1999, Ol' Dirty Bastard was arrested on attempted murder charges after allegedly exchanging gunfire with street crime unit officers during a traffic stop in Crown Heights. The grand jury refused to indict, apparently believing the cops started the trouble. At various times ODB has also been arrested for burglary, threatening to kill a security guard, and not paying child support.
Into this atmosphere of turmoil stepped Michael Caruso. Caruso has known Cappadonna for years; they grew up together on Staten Island. But in the wake of Caruso's 1997 arrest by the Drug Enforcement Agency for distributing Ecstasy and cocaine at the Limelight, when he immediately offered to cooperate with the government, the former techno promoter decided to leave the rave scene, which he felt was over, in search of a new musical direction. He persuaded electronica fan Cappadonna to employ him as his personal manager.
Caruso's duties include making sure the rapper gets to recording sessions on time, and handling money and arrangements when Cappadonna is on tour. Those who work with him complain that Caruso is unprofessional and incompetent: "He behaves like an idiot. He spends his whole time smoking blunts, drinking Hennessy, and using the Wu-Tang name to pick up gullible girls." It seems life as a federal informer isn't all looking over your shoulder, expecting to be whacked at any minute.
Caruso told the Clan he used to peddle drugs at the Limelight. He regaled them with tales of drug and sex orgies hosted by Peter Gatien at fancy hotels. He forgot to mention he was also working for the government.
"When I first met him I thought he was a big bullshitter," says a member of the Wu-Tang Clan organization, who requested anonymity. "You could tell he wasn't really hardcore. He was trying too hard to be down.
"Cappadonna is easily influenced," says the same source. "I'm surprised Caruso was so easily able to get with the group. They're usually very careful who they bring into their inner circle, because they've been burnt before. He just sort of came from nowhere, and all of a sudden he was a Wu-Tang manager. But just because Cappadonna and Ghostface Killah accept him doesn't mean the rest of the group does."
Six years ago, when three masked robbersone of them carrying a Tech 9 machine pistol, another a handful of brightly colored balloonsburst into the Chelsea apartment of novice party promoter Don Archer, he thought it was a prank. After all, today was the nightcrawler's birthday. His friend Allison had just phoned, and said she was coming over to help him celebrate. Surprise quickly turned to terror, however, when he realized this was no joke. The slightly built Archer (not his real name) was quickly overpowered by beefy intruders and thrown to the floor, where he was tied up with duct tape alongside Allison, whom the gunmen had supposedly kidnapped from the street below. Turning up the music, the armed thugs ransacked the apartment, and stole $12,000 in cash and a box of the animal tranquilizer ketamine. To cover their exit, the bandits left pills and empty cocaine bottles strewn around the room to deter the victim from calling the police.
"I was so scared, I cleaned up immediately and moved out of the apartment and never went back," says Archer, who wondered how the robbers got past the luxury building's doorman. He suspected it was an inside job. But it wasn't until later that he found out that Allison had conspired with scam artist Michael Caruso, who planned and pulled off the heist.
In the early '90s, Michael Caruso was a major figure in the dissemination of rave culture in America. After a 1990 trip to the U.K. to check out the burgeoning acid house scene, he came back to Staten Island with a crate of techno 12-inch singles, which he handed out to local DJs, among them Pete Repete. At clubs like the Wave and Red Spot, this hyperkinetic sound caught the fancy of a new generation of Italian American males: "It was something different," recalls Repete. "They liked the aggressive energy of the music immediately." Caruso sensed that raving was the next big thing, and he was determined to capitalize on it, by fair means or foul.