Passaic County rapper Juelz Santana turned himself in to Port Authority police before dawn Monday after fleeing Newark Airport Friday night when a gun and drugs were found in his bag.
Santana, 36, of Totowa -- whose real name is LaRon James -- later entered a not-guilty plea before a state Superior Court judge in Newark who scheduled him for a detention hearing on Monday, March 19.
Charged with drug and weapons offenses, he could face prison time because of a prior felony conviction out of Bergen County, which prohibits Santana from carrying a firearm.
A judge in Hackensack gave Santana two years probation in 2013 after he pleaded guilty to lesser charges for what prosecutors said were assaults on both his then-girlfriend, Kim ‘Bella’ Vanderhee, and a good Samaritan who came to her aid at an Englewood housing development in July 2011.
Santana and Vanderhee reportedly split last fall.
This time, the co-founder of The Dipsets and The Skull Gang not only left his two bags but also his ID behind when he left the Terminal C security checkpoint at Newark Airport and ducked out an exit Friday night, a law enforcement source who spoke on condition of anonymity said.
Inside one of the bags TSA agents found a two-shot .38-caliber Derringer pistol, multiple sources said.
"As TSA started going through his bag, he ran out of airport and jumped in a cab," one of them said.
Authorities reportedly went to his Totowa home looking for Santana, but he wasn't there, one told Daily Voice.
Arrangements were then made for a surrender that sources on Sunday said never happened.
According to U.S. Attorney Chris Carpenito:
Santana on Friday "submitted a carry-on bag for inspection at Newark Liberty International Airport. While he waited for his bag to be screened, [he[ allegedly requested that the bag be examined quickly because he was going to miss his flight to San Francisco.
"During the X-Ray screening of [his] luggage, a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent identified a suspected firearm and contacted the Port Authority Police. Upon seeing that his bag had attracted additional attention, [Santana] left the security checkpoint area without his belongings, including his driver’s license and boarding pass, and departed the airport in a taxi.
"Further investigation of [his] bag revealed that it contained a Derringer .38 caliber handgun, which was loaded with two rounds."
Six years ago, Santana was charged in connection with the discovery of two fully-loaded 9mm handguns, several boxes of ammunition and 17 dime bags of pot during a SWAT team raid of what was then his “Santana’s World” studios on South Washington Avenue in Bergenfield.
Santana -- who once lived in Teaneck -- wasn’t there at the time, but investigators arrested freestyle rapper Toby M. “Hynief” Raynor, who co-founded both The Diplomats (aka: The Dipsets) and The Skull Gang with him. Santana later turned himself in.
He was free on bail when police in Teaneck arrested him four months later for driving while on the suspended list.
Then came the assault charges.
Santana’s first album, “From Me to U” was released on Russell Simmons’ popular Def Jam label in 2003. His follow-up, “What the Game’s Been Missing!” spawned a Top 10 single: “There It Go (The Whistle Song).”
The son of an African-American mother and Dominican father, he reportedly began rapping at 5 — and at 12, was signed to his first record deal as part of the duo Draft Pick.
In August 2008, Dipset founder Cam’ron told an interviewer that he had sold Santana’s contract to Def Jam Records for $2 million, opening an already-existing rift between the two.
Santana had been working on his third album, “Born to Lose, Built to Win,” on his own Skull Gang label, at the Bergenfield studios. He moved his operations there after running a clothing and music store on Amsterdam Avenue between 150th and 151st Streets in the Bronx.
A few singles from the album appeared, including “Back to the Crib,” featuring Chris Brown.
Members of the Harlem-based Skull Gang (Street Kids United by Loyalty & Loot) have worked with, among others, rap legend Jim Jones, Lil Wayne and Mike Epps.
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