AceShowbiz - Three associates of R. Kelly have been arrested and charged amid allegations of witness tampering in connection to the singer's racketeering case.
New York federal prosecutors have accused Richard Arline Jr., Donnell Russell, and Michael Williams of attempting to intimidate witnesses to prevent them from co-operating with authorities in charge of Kelly's criminal case.
Officials claim Arline Jr., who calls himself a friend of the R&B veteran, offered to pay one accuser $500,000 (£384,000) to stay silent, while Russell, a self-described manager and advisor to Kelly, is believed to have tried to blackmail another alleged victim by threatening to leak sexually explicit photos and details about her past if she didn't drop her civil suit against the incarcerated musician.
And Williams, who is related to one of Kelly's former publicists, stands accused of targetting the "I Believe I Can Fly" hitmaker's ex-girlfriend, Azriel Clary, in an arson attack in Florida in June (20), when he allegedly set fire to her Sports Utility Vehicle.
In a statement, acting Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Seth D. DuCharme declared, "The defendants are separately charged with engaging in multiple crimes that were intended to undermine and subvert the integrity of the criminal justice system and victimize the women who have come forward with serious allegations of criminal conduct against the defendant R. Kelly."
However, the singer, full name Robert Kelly, is denying any involvement in the victim harassment scandal.
His attorney, Steven Greenberg, told TMZ, "Without question, Robert Kelly had nothing to do with any of these alleged acts by those charged. He has not attempted to intimidate anyone, or encouraged anyone else to do so. No involvement whatsoever."
The news emerges less than a year after Kelly was denied bail amid concerns about possible witness intimidation and/or tampering.
Kelly remains behind bars in Chicago, Illinois, where he is facing multiple counts of sexual abuse, while he is also set to stand trial for racketeering and sex trafficking in New York.
He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.