Police have arrested three of four suspects accused in the murder of Lil Phat. Among the three in custody is a Russian mobster believed to have put a hit out on Phat.
Mani Chulpayev is accused of ordering Phat's murder. The Trill Entertainment rapper was on his way to Atlanta's Northside Hospital to witness the birth of his child, when he was gunned down. The killing was reportedly done out of retaliation for Phat telling cops that he leased a stolen BMW from Chulpayev.
"I termed it an assassination," District Attorney Paul Howard told WSBTV's Channel 2 Action News. "He was stalked by these two hit men. It was planned."
Chulpayev is accused of hiring two hit men from Alabama to carry out the murder, claims of which his lawyer disputes. "Mani had nothing against this kid and grieved when he found out he was killed," attorney George Plumides said.
Plumides had also represented Phat on the stolen car charge. He maintains that Chulpayev has an alibi, and further accused authorities of putting his client "out of business" following an investigation that commenced with a SWAT team busting the accused killer in Broward County, FL, nearly three weeks ago. He said Chulpayev will be transported back to Atlanta to face charges in the shooting.
On June 7, 2012, Lil Phat — née Melvin Vernell III — was sitting in an Audi A7 purchased from Chulpayev when he was shot multiple times. Chulpayev was able to track the 19-year-old down via the car's GPS system.
Born in Texas but raised in Louisiana, Phat signed to Trill Entertainment at the age of 15. His posthumous release, Y.N.I.C., has been upgraded from a mixtape to a full-length album, which will drop sometime this year.
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(Photo: Trill Entertainment)