Jamaican reggae star Buju Banton is facing charges that he attempted along with others to buy a large quantity of cocaine from an undercover law enforcement officer.
A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration affidavit says Banton, whose real name is Mark Anthony Myrie, traveled to Sarasota last week to make the purchase along with two others. The DEA was tipped off by a confidential informant who agreed to wear a recording device during the drug negotiation session.
Banton, 36, faces a charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, which carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence. Banton was being held at Miami's downtown detention center Monday pending transfer to Tampa, where the case is being prosecuted.
A bail hearing was set for Wednesday in Miami federal court. The attorney handling that for Banton didn't immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.
According to the DEA affidavit, Banton contacted the confidential informant last Monday about a possible cocaine purchase. The next day, Banton and other men met with the informant at Sarasota's La Tropicana de Havana restaurant, where the DEA and local police had set up surveillance.
Banton allegedly arrived at the meeting in his silver Land Rover with the license plate "Jah One," according to the affidavit.
Eventually, the group went to a warehouse authorities had outfitted with audio and video recording devices to make the cocaine deal. An undercover police officer pulled out one brick of the 20-kilogram load, according to the DEA, and one of Banton's associate's sliced it open with a knife.
Banton, according to the affidavit, "instantly wiped the blade of that knife with his finger and placed that finger in his mouth in what appeared to be an attempt to taste the cocaine." After two more meetings at local restaurants between the informant and Banton's associates, authorities arrested the associates and then took Banton into custody Thursday in Miami.
The husky-voiced Banton has been a major star in his native Jamaica since the early 1990s with brash dancehall music and, more recently, a traditional reggae sound. His career has been stunted in the United States because of his attitude toward gays, including songs "Batty Rider" and "Boom Bye Bye" which glorify the shooting of gay men.
Associated Press writer Jennifer Kay in Miami contributed to this report.