Inside the Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs’ raids: Emptied safes, dismantled electronics, gun-toting feds

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It was a major show of force: Dozens of agents, some heavily armed, descending on Sean “Diddy” Combs’ estates in Los Angeles and Miami.

Television news helicopters captured the action as Department of Homeland Security agents served a search warrant in what officials described as an investigation into alleged sex trafficking — claims the music legend denies.

Homeland Security investigators yelled for those inside the star’s Holmby Hills mansion to come out with their hands in the air. Combs’ adult sons later told their father they had lasers pointed at them as they emerged from the home, sources told The Times. Combs himself was in Florida at the time.

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

Here is a rundown of what we know and what we don’t:

What do we know about the searches?

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. Federal agents disabled his security system and seized the hard drive, a sources told The Times.

That tracks with what some legal experts expected investigators would seek if trying to build a sex-trafficking case against the hip-hop mogul.

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.”

It is unclear what was recovered in the bicoastal searches.

Federal authorities spent several hours at both homes. Sources said Combs was in Miami at the time but was not at his Florida home when the raid occurred.

No one has been arrested in connection with the investigation, although two of Combs’ sons were briefly detained on the Holmby Hills property, and Brendan Paul, a man described in a recent lawsuit against Combs as a confidant and drug “mule,” was arrested at a Miami airport at the same time the raids were being conducted. Miami-Dade police took Paul, 25, into custody on suspicion of possession of cocaine and marijuana-laced candy, records show.

Where does the case stand?

Sources told The Times that Combs is the subject of a sweeping inquiry into sex-trafficking allegations and sexual assault.

The investigation comes after four women filed civil lawsuits accusing Combs of rape, assault and other abuses, dating back three decades. One of the allegations involved 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.

“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 you “encouraged somebody to engage in sexual activity for money or some other inducement.”

What is Diddy’s camp saying?

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

“Yesterday, 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.”

Sources in Combs’ camp who requested anonymity say the star remains in the U.S. and authorities have not taken his passport. They said Combs had been scheduled to depart by plane Monday for a spring break vacation with his school-age daughters, but opted to delay the trip after learning of the searches.

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