The FBI conducted a raid on Friday of the offices of Del Records, a label based in Bell Gardens that is famous for producing narco music.
A SWAT team was brought in to execute the search warrant, which is being kept under seal. Video taken by a bystander showed agents appearing to force open the front door and using a flash-bang device.
No arrests were made, and the FBI declined to comment on the investigation.
Del Records is in a high-profile legal dispute with Gerardo Ortiz, a norteño singer-songwriter famous for his narco ballads. In 2019, Del Records sued the singer, alleging that he had insisted on being paid for performances in cash so as to evade taxes. The suit also stated that Ortiz had long had problems with the Internal Revenue Service, and that the label had once had to lend him money to pay his back taxes.
The label also claimed that Ortiz had performed a show in Mexico for an alleged trafficker, which drew the attention of the U.S. government.
In a statement on Friday, the label said that the investigation was related to Ortiz.
“We are able to confirm that the Federal Bureau of Investigation came to the offices of Del Records today and took a number of materials that we understand relate to the FBI’s investigation of our former artist, Gerardo Ortiz,” the company said. “To the best of our knowledge, Del Records is not a subject, but merely a source of information for the FBI’s investigation into Mr. Ortiz. We have cooperated fully with the FBI and will continue to do so.”
Ortiz issued a statement through his company, Badsin Entertainment, claiming that the agents had also searched the home of the label’s CEO, Jose Angel del Villar.
“To our knowledge the search by the FBI at Del Records office and Mr. Del Villar’s home does not involve Mr. Ortiz,” Ortiz’s company said.
Del Records’ representative could not confirm or deny whether Del Villar’s home was searched. An FBI spokeswoman confirmed that a home in Huntington Beach was searched, but declined to say who lives there. Public records, however, link the address to Del Villar.
Ortiz filed his own complaint against Del Villar and Del Records in 2019, accusing the label of underpaying him by millions of dollars. The singer claimed that the label had engaged in fraudulent accounting practices, and had failed to account for hundreds of shows.
Ortiz also alleged that Del Records acted as both his manager and his publisher, posing a clear conflict of interest.
“Villar and Del wear many hats, so many that the conduct is unprecedented in the entertainment industry,” Ortiz alleged in a Labor Commissioner complaint filed last August. “The fundamental duties of an agent are to hold the interests of the client/principal/artist ahead of the interests of the agent, to not make secret profits and to ensure full disclosure. None of this has occurred. Villar is secretive, condescending, abusive and evasive.”
Del Records signed Ortiz to a contract in 2009. The label says it launched the singer to become one of the top Mexican-American musical artists.
In 2016, Ortiz was arrested by Mexican authorities at the Guadalajara airport and accused of promoting violence in the video for the song “Fuiste mía.” In the video, Ortiz portrays a drug lord who stuffs his girlfriend in the trunk of a car and sets the car on fire.