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Rapper 'Fat Joe' sentenced to prison on tax charges

By David Jones

NEWARK, New Jersey (Reuters) - Hip hop artist Joseph "Fat Joe" Cartagena was sentenced on Monday to four months in federal prison and fined $15,000 for failure to file tax returns on more than $3.3 million in income.

The 42-year-old rapper faced the possibility of up to two years in prison after pleading guilty in December to two counts of failing to file with the Internal Revenue Service.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy Waldor gave the Bronx-born rapper credit for paying $718,000 in back taxes prior to his sentencing and for his charitable work.

The court received more than 60 letters on his behalf, including one from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, who cited Cartagena's efforts to donate computers to local schools.

Cartagena apologized to his family and friends, saying he let them down. He said his 6-year-old daughter was being taunted in school by classmates who said her father was going to jail.

"There was a lot going on in the years that I didn't file my taxes, but it was my responsibility," he said. His hits include the 2004 song "Lean Back."

His attorneys had asked for probation in light of the three-month prison sentence handed down to hip hop artist Lauryn Hill in May on similar tax charges.

Cartagena was originally charged with failure to file returns from 2007 to 2010 but under a plea agreement the charges were reduced to not filing returns for two years.

His income came from three companies, including Somerville, N.J.-based Terror Squad Production Inc and Miramar Music Touring, which he owned.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and by Bob Burgdorfer)

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