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Feds want Sean 'Diddy' Combs' communications, flight records in sex-trafficking probe

Sean "Diddy" Combs

Federal investigators are seeking telecommunications records involving Sean "Diddy" Combs as part of an investigation into alleged sex trafficking, a source close to the investigation told The Times.

The news comes several days after the Department of Homeland Security served search warrants at Combs' Los Angeles and Miami estates. The hip-hop mogul has denied any wrongdoing in the sweeping investigation, which includes multiple lawsuits in recent months alleging sexual assault and harassment.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said investigators also have requested flight records linked to Combs.

The musical artist remains in the U.S., according to sources with knowledge of the situation, who said Combs was scheduled on Monday to depart by plane for a spring break vacation with his school-age daughters but delayed the trip after learning of the searches. He still has his passport, they added.

He was spotted playing golf with two of his daughters at a driving range in the Miami area Thursday night, according to reports by the Daily Mail.

But Homeland Security agents on Monday stopped a plane on the ground at an executive airport in Miami, and Miami-Dade police officers who accompanied them arrested Brendan Paul, a man in Combs’ entourage. Authorities say they found cocaine and marijuana-laced candy in his bag. Paul, 25, was described in a recent lawsuit against Combs as a confidant and drug “mule.”

Read more: What to know about the Sean 'Diddy' Combs lawsuits, raids

Companies doing business with Combs' empire also are being issued subpoenas, as first reported by TMZ, including a private charter jet firm and phone provider and computer companies.

On Monday, federal agents seized several electronic devices, including cellphones, according to a source familiar with the investigation. They also disabled Combs' security system at his Holmby Hills mansion and seized the hard drive, a source told The Times.

But much remains unknown about the case and how close authorities are to determining whether to file criminal charges.

Read more: A timeline of allegations against Sean 'Diddy' Combs

Sources with knowledge of the operation who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss it publicly said it appears investigators searching Combs’ Holmby Hills home emptied safes, dismantled electronics and left papers strewn in some rooms.

That tracks with what some legal experts say investigators would need if trying to build a sex-trafficking case against Combs.

Dmitry Gorin, a former L.A. County sex crimes prosecutor who is now in private law practice, said investigators would likely seek authorization to “search for videos or photographs on any devices connected to the target ... anywhere where digital images can be found in connection to sexual conduct that would have been recorded."

No one has been arrested in connection with the investigation, although two of Combs’ sons were briefly detained on the Holmby Hills property.

Read more: Behind the calamitous fall of hip-hop mogul Sean 'Diddy' Combs

The investigation into Combs is being directed by federal prosecutors with the Southern District of New York.

It comes after four women filed civil lawsuits accusing Combs of rape, assault and other abuses, dating back three decades. One allegation involves a minor.

A source familiar with Homeland Security's criminal inquiry said investigators have interviewed some of the people tied to the sex-trafficking allegations in the lawsuits against Combs.

Homeland Security investigates most sex-trafficking operations for the federal government. Legal experts say one possibility why the agency could be involved in this case is because the women involved in the allegations against Combs could be from other countries.

“They have [in the Combs case] convinced one or more federal magistrates they had enough probable cause for one or more search warrants,” said Meghan Blanco, a defense attorney who has handled sex-trafficking cases. “Given the scope of the investigation, it seems they are further along than most investigations.”

Gorin said the allegations involving a minor could be a key focus in the inquiry.

If a minor is moved across state lines for the purpose of sex, “that is enough for at least an argument ... of sex trafficking because somebody underage cannot consent,” Gorin said.

“Sex trafficking for adults usually involves some sort of coercion or other restraints,” he said, and can be tougher to prove. Prosecutors would need to show a person “encouraged somebody to engage in sexual activity for money or some other inducement.”

Read more: Where is Diddy? Sean Combs remains in U.S. amid widening sex trafficking probe, sources say

Aaron Dyer, one of Combs’ lawyers, on Tuesday called the raids a “witch hunt” and criticized how they were conducted.

“There was a gross overuse of military-level force as search warrants were executed at Mr. Combs’ residences,” Dyer said in a statement.

“This unprecedented ambush — paired with an advanced, coordinated media presence — leads to a premature rush to judgment of Mr. Combs and is nothing more than a witch hunt based on meritless accusations made in civil lawsuits. There has been no finding of criminal or civil liability with any of these allegations.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.