R&B superstar R. Kelly had been locked up at Chicago’s federal jail for four months when a popular YouTube personality touted an inside scoop on the singer’s tumultuous relationship with two girlfriends still living in his high-rise apartment.
Apparently wanting to keep the women in his camp, Kelly allegedly had a friend bring $1,500 in cash to the Trump Tower residence to help pay their bills, blogger Tasha K. said in an “exclusive” video posted to her YouTube channel in November 2019.
One of them, Joycelyn Savage, was angry she’d been kept off Kelly’s visitors list, according to Tasha K. The other, Azriel Clary, had left the apartment and not come back, throwing Kelly into a tizzy, she said.
How did Tasha K. know all this? Well, she wasn’t telling.
“Yeah there’s a phone tap somewhere and I’m not gonna tell you where it’s at,” Tasha K. told her viewers during the 39-minute video, which has so far collected more than 328,000 views. “I have the plug. I’m not gonna tell you where I got the information from, but just listen to the damn information, OK?”
Now, it appears federal investigators allegedly know exactly how Tasha K. was plugged in. A federal search warrant recently unsealed in Chicago shows that agents seized a laptop from a U.S. Bureau of Prisons officer who was suspected of illegally accessing Kelly’s recorded phone calls, emails, visitor logs and other restricted information during his stay at the Metropolitan Correctional Center on West Van Buren Street.
The female officer, who at the time worked as a disciplinary hearing officer at a federal prison in Wisconsin, accessed Kelly’s records more than 150 times in a six-month period in 2019 even though the officer was not assigned to the MCC and “had no official reason” to be looking them up, according to the 24-page document obtained by the Tribune.
The officer, identified only as Officer A, also emailed herself a 12-page scan of Kelly’s jail records, according to an affidavit from an investigator with the U.S. Justice Department’s inspector general’s office.
The officer retired in December 2019, according to the affidavit. She has not been charged.
The unsealing of the search warrant comes in the middle of Kelly’s racketeering trial in New York on charges alleging he was the head of a criminal enterprise that for decades recruited girls and young women and held them against their will to satisfy Kelly’s illegal sexual appetites.
Kelly is identified in the warrant only as Inmate A, though he’s described as a “nationally recognized celebrity whose criminal case has received media attention.” Sources confirmed the investigation and videos referenced in the federal document line up with Kelly-related videos posted on YouTube.
In an emailed statement Tuesday, a BOP spokesman wrote the bureau could not comment on “issues pending investigation” for privacy, safety and security reasons.
The documents offer a glimpse into the unbridled cottage industry that has sprung up on social media since the allegations against Kelly exploded in 2019 with the Lifetime docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly,” which eventually led to federal indictments in Brooklyn and Chicago as well as similar charges in Cook County.
Since then, Kelly’s supporters and detractors have devoted countless hours on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram parsing every last detail of the singer’s life and the charges against him.
When a south suburban woman posted Kelly’s $100,000 bail in the Cook County case in February 2019, she instantly became a hot topic of conversation, with some bloggers on social media calling for a boycott of the restaurant she owns, while others wrongly identified her as the operator of a South Side day care.
As the trial has been unfolding in New York, one blogger, who posts under the name Infamous Sylvia, has even been using actors to read aloud from the trial transcripts, creating what she bills as “role reenactment.”
But perhaps none of the gossipmongers has been as successful as Tasha K., whose celebrity news dispatches on the YouTube channel “Unwinewithtashak” regularly garner hundreds of thousands of views and, presumably, significant advertising dollars.
The 39-year-old Atlanta-based blogger, whose real name is Latasha Kebe, often touts her videos as offering “exclusive” information and insight into Kelly’s world, with interviews of key players as well as updates on the allegations, including many that go far beyond even the most salacious details offered in court.
According to the warrant, the warden of Chicago’s MCC first reported to BOP internal affairs on Nov. 22, 2019, that Tasha K. “had revealed sensitive law enforcement information” regarding the celebrity identified as Kelly, including “information that would have been known to BOP employees who had monitored Inmate A’s telephone calls or accessed the recordings of those calls.”
The warrant mentions three specific videos posted by Tasha K. that are all still publicly viewable on YouTube. Among them was a Nov. 8, 2019, video titled “Exclusive: New R. Kelly ENABLERS REVEALED,” where she appears to scroll through her cellphone while reading a summary of a recent call between Kelly and Savage that was recorded on the jail’s system.
“I got some explosive information!” Tasha K. says after taking a sip of white wine from a large goblet. “So Rob called Joycelyn and she was crying hysterically. She said Azriel was leaving the Trump Tower and she was not coming back. Now I told you I got a (expletive) plug, so this is all facts.”
Another video posted on Dec. 22, 2019, was titled “R. Kelly RELEASED Emails PROVES he can’t read or write,” according to the affidavit. The 16-minute video, which had more than 512,000 views as of Tuesday, features Tasha K. reading verbatim from emails Kelly purportedly sent from jail to Savage a month earlier, including details of how he misspelled the word “Hi” as “Hai.”
“I’m not gonna put it up here because this is considered somebody’s private information or whatever,” she says, using air quotes as she looks down at her phone. “But, you know, my word? Trust me.”
Kebe could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.
A review of Officer A’s logins to the Bureau of Prisons internal information system, meanwhile, showed that the officer had improperly accessed Kelly’s records 153 times between July 15, 2019, when Kelly first arrived at the MCC, and Dec. 12, 2019, shortly before her retirement, according to the warrant.
During that time, the officer also accessed and printed out Kelly’s visitor logs and payments made into and out of his commissary account, which included the names of people sending money to Kelly while he was in jail, according to the warrant.
On Nov. 13, 2019, the officer sent herself a 12-page scan of Kelly’s jail records from her official BOP email account to a Gmail address registered to her, according to the warrant. Among the information in that scan was a log of Kelly’s emails, including some later divulged by Tasha K. in her video blog.
The warrant sought permission to search Officer A’s desktop computer for any evidence of a crime, including any internet searches of R. Kelly as well as financial transactions or discussion of payments with Tasha K.