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Law enforcement agents raid homes linked to Sean 'Diddy' Combs

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

First, there were lawsuits accusing Sean "Diddy" Combs of physical abuse, sexual assault and sex trafficking. Now, federal agents have raided two of his homes in Los Angeles and Miami.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:

This is a big deal because Combs is more than just a hip-hop star. He's an enormous power figure in the music industry and in fashion as well. In a statement to NPR, Combs' attorneys say he's innocent, that the accusations are meritless and that officers used excessive force while executing search warrants.

FADEL: Reporter Meghann Cuniff, also known on social media as Meghann Thee Reporter, is following the story and joins us now. Hi, Meghann.

MEGHANN CUNIFF: Hi. Thanks for having me.

FADEL: Thanks for being here. The agents from the Department of Homeland Security raided these homes earlier this week. What do we know about why and what they found?

CUNIFF: We don't know a lot from the agents themselves about what they were doing there. But we have had confirmation through various law enforcement sources and reporters that this is connected to the lawsuits that we've seen against Diddy in the last few months, with some pretty serious allegations about sex trafficking in there.

FADEL: In what way are they linked?

CUNIFF: We've heard that investigators have interviewed some of the people who are also mentioned in those complaints. And the Department of Homeland Security, which is heading this operation, does take the lead on human trafficking investigations, which this would entail.

FADEL: And just remind people who aren't familiar with these lawsuits what is at the heart of the accusations here.

CUNIFF: It started with his former longtime girlfriend, Cassie, who's a well-known R&B singer, suing him and unveiling a complaint that had some pretty - years' worth of damning allegations against him, allegations of forced prostitution, sexual assault going back years, and that led to some other lawsuits. We've seen a number of lawsuits filed since then, even one just recently from a former producer that has a lot of these same allegations.

FADEL: Now, Meghann, the feds must have known these raids would make huge headlines. I know there shouldn't be a difference legally, but is there a higher bar for executing warrants like these on high-profile people like Combs?

CUNIFF: You have to imagine that within the Department of Justice when they're deciding what to do, that there is a public relations aspect to this that might go beyond the probable cause that they need to get any search warrant. They have to consider the implications of executing a huge search like this and what is the likelihood that they're going to have another step after this like criminal indictment.

FADEL: The raids happened Monday. Combs' attorneys put out a statement a day later. We heard Debbie share some of that. Combs is accusing the agents of excessive use of force. What's behind that accusation?

CUNIFF: That's an accusation we hear a lot from people who get their homes raided in federal searches, that the federal agents don't go there and knock on the door and say, hey, can we please search the place? They have authorization from the judge to go in there, and especially in a high-profile situation with a large property like that, I would expect to see a show of force. And just from the aerial footage that we've seen from the place, it does look like there were a number of federal agents there.

FADEL: Journalist Meghann Cuniff, who, by the way, again, is also known as Meghann Thee Reporter. Thanks, Meghann.

CUNIFF: Thanks so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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