Where’s Sean Combs? Everything We Know — and Don’t — About Federal Raids

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Sean Combs in 2023 - Credit: rince Williams/WireImage
Sean Combs in 2023 - Credit: rince Williams/WireImage

It was an unbelievable scene as federal investigators raided Sean Combs’ Los Angeles and Miami homes Monday, with helicopters hovering above and uniformed officials marching inside the stately grounds to emerge with multiple, large boxes.

The Department of Homeland Security was behind the simultaneous coast-to-coast raids, carrying out a warrant reportedly issued by the Department of Justice — Southern District of New York. A source previously told Rolling Stone that four Jane Does and one John Doe already sat for interviews with SDNY investigators for a probe into Combs related to alleged sex trafficking and racketeering.

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Combs’ attorney Aaron Dyer called the raids an “unprecedented ambush” and a “witch hunt” in a statement released on Tuesday. “There is no excuse for the excessive show of force and hostility exhibited by authorities or the way his children and employees were treated,” Dyer said. “Mr. Combs was never detained but spoke to and cooperated with authorities. Despite media speculation, neither Mr. Combs nor any of his family members have been arrested nor has their ability to travel been restricted in any way.”

“Mr. Combs is innocent and will continue to fight every single day to clear his name,” Dyer added.

The once celebrated music mogul who was awarded MTV’s Global Icon Award in 2023 and praised for his Bronx charter school and gifting $1 million to Howard University, has seen a steep downfall after his ex-girlfriend Cassie filed a bombshell sexual abuse lawsuit against her former label boss last November. The R&B singer claims that Combs would physically beat and rape her, and forced her to engage in drug-fueled group sex with male sex workers. While Combs’ attorney labeled the lawsuit as a shakedown “riddled with baseless and outrageous lies,” the pair reached a private settlement one day later.

Cassie’s suit led several other women and one man to file similar sex abuse and harassment suits against Combs and other Bad Boy executives in New York. (Combs denied any wrongdoing in each case.) Still, he stepped down from the chairmanship at Revolt and skipped out on this year’s Grammys, where his latest project The Love Album was up for an award.

Combs has not been charged or officially named as the target of Homeland Security’s investigation — and raids don’t always lead to imminent criminal charges. But there are many unanswered questions regarding what might lay ahead for Combs. Here are some of the biggest unknowns at this time:

What Prompted Homeland Security’s Raids on Combs’ Homes?

Authorities have not disclosed specifically why they carried out the raid, i.e., whether it was due to the civil suits against Combs or if someone else came forward privately with new criminal allegations. All one source would confirm to Rolling Stone is that the raids were tied to a federal sex trafficking investigation.

What we do know is that the New York division of Homeland Security Investigations, in connection with federal prosecutors at the Southern District of New York, led the raids working with their HSI counterparts in Los Angeles and Miami. An HSI spokesperson described the raids as “law enforcement actions as part of an ongoing investigation” and promised to provide more info “as it becomes available.” The spokesperson did not specifically name Combs as the target of the investigation.

Noah Kroloff, the former chief of staff for Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, tells Rolling Stone that HSI’s involvement indicates that there is some element of the investigation that involves the movement of people or items across international borders. HSI specializes in “transactional crime,” including “human smuggling and trafficking,” per the U.S. government’s ICE website. Two of the causes of action in singer Cassie’s civil suit against Combs involved sex trafficking and human trafficking, but HSI has not announced any charges against Combs.

Attorney Michelle Simpson Tuegel of the Simpson Tuegel Law Firm, which represents plaintiffs in sexual abuse and assault lawsuits, tells Rolling Stone that while she would typically expect the FBI to lead a raid like this, Homeland Security might have gotten involved to help shoulder some of the federal authorities’ burden. “Since there have been sex trafficking allegations in some of the lawsuits, I think that can tie in Homeland Security,” Tuegel says. “Because we know at least one of the plaintiffs currently lives in Canada, I think that that would potentially be the tie for Homeland Security.” (Simpson Tuegel does not represent anyone involved in any lawsuit connected to Combs.)

Still, Tuegel believes things look “really bad” for Combs based on the “sheer show of force and federal cooperation and coordination.” The mounting pile of civil lawsuits, which include allegations involving minors, sex trafficking and drugs, “certainly lends itself towards a really big bad mess for him that just continues to grow.”

Was Anyone Arrested or Detained During the Raids? 

There have been no reports of Combs being arrested, or that anyone was taken into custody at any of his residences. Two men later identified as Combs’ adult sons Justin, 30, and King, 25, were briefly detained at Combs’ Holmby Hills mansion but were later seen leaving the property that night.

While the raids were occurring, Brendan Paul, a 25-year-old identified in music producer Rodney “Lil Rod” Jones’ lawsuit against Combs as the music mogul’s drug “mule,” was arrested at Miami-Opa Locka Airport. Paul was accused of traveling domestically and internationally with illegal substances for Combs on three occasions from December 2022 through November 2023. Paul was charged with possession of cocaine and marijuana and was held on a $5,000 bond at a Miami jail. Brian Bieber, Paul’s attorney said in a statement to Rolling Stone, “We do not plan on trying this case in the media – all issues will be dealt with in Court.” It’s unclear if Paul’s arrest is connected to a wider investigation into Combs.

Where is Combs Now? 

Combs briefly surfaced on Monday afternoon, with TMZ catching a glimpse of the embattled music executive pacing outside Miami-Opa Locka airport as his homes were raided. He was reportedly headed on a private flight to the Bahamas, according to NBC News. It’s unknown where Combs is currently located. His private jet — named LoveAir — took off from Los Angeles on Monday morning and arrived in Antigua and Barbuda later that evening, according to flight data reviewed by Rolling Stone. The plane appears to be still docked at the island’s small airport, though it is not clear who traveled on the plane.

What Did Investigators Take From Combs’ Homes? 

The HSI has not released a detailed list of everything it took from Combs’ homes, but NBC News reported that officials seized Combs’ phones in the Miami raid. The outlet also reported that firearms were found his properties, but did not note if the guns were seized or who they were registered to. Hal Kempfer, a Homeland Security expert who spoke with L.A.’s Fox 11, suggested investigators would be looking for laptops, flash drives, and other evidence that could support the allegations. Kroloff adds that agents would be looking for evidence in the form of paper and electronic records that would further support the case investigators are building. Tuegel adds that authorities would also want to review any security footage around the homes.

What are the next steps for HSI/SDNY?

If investigators find evidence that support federal charges, prosecutors would then serve Combs with an indictment. When this could happen, however, remains unclear. It took more than 17 years for investigators and prosecutors to put together a case they felt was strong enough against the two men recently convicted of murdering Run-DMC’s Jam Master Jay in 2002, and so far, a 2021 raid by L.A. County sheriffs into Marilyn Manson’s holdings has not resulted in charges, even though they delivered their findings to the district attorney in 2022. What is known now is that New York–based federal investigators have been speaking with potential witnesses for several months, a source confirmed to Rolling Stone, so it appears they have been building a case.

Tuegel says it’s difficult to predict when or if charges might come to light since the authorities may need to obtain more warrants to search some of the items they seized. It’s possible that they might have grabbed a phone or other computer they hadn’t expected to see and would need a judge to sign off on whether or not they could search it. “Now if there’s anything on the devices — and they haven’t already been wiped — will be the question,” she continues. “But federal law enforcement sometimes have an ability to recover data that has even been deleted; it’s not completely gone. That processing takes time, although in a case like this, they might be able to move faster.”

Additionally, Tuegel adds that the fact Combs is famous “doesn’t always mean that [the case] moves to the front of the line.” Authorities may also want to focus on getting more witnesses to talk as a result of what they recover from a raid.

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