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RiRi Breaks Law -- Think Before You Ink!

7/2/2009 3:30 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

Rihanna picked up a tattoo needle last night at a parlor in NYC -- which would be totally fun and cool, if it wasn't also incredibly illegal.

Rihanna: Click to watch
We're told RiRi tattooed three of East Side Ink's artists with umbrellas and the letter R. None of her pet projects cared that she didn't have a license -- but the NYC Law Department does.

They say Rihanna could be slapped with three misdemeanors for the offense, each with its own hefty penalty -- as much as $300 for the first offense, $500 for the second and $1,000 for the third.

Sources say the tattoo shop could also face considerable fines of its own if the NYC Law Dept. decides to open an investigation.

UPDATE: The NYC Health Department just told TMZ: "Only licensed tattoo artists can administer tattoos in the city according to the City's Health Code. We are sending someone down to follow up on this."

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