Suffolk DA: East End cocaine ring busted

Suffolk authorities say they have indicted the leaders of "one of the largest cocaine rings on the East End," dismantling an operation that brought as much as 4 kilograms of cocaine to the area every week, the county's top prosecutor said Tuesday. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (July 31, 2012)

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Suffolk authorities have busted the leaders of what they say was one of the largest cocaine rings on the East End, dismantling an operation that sold about $200,000 worth of the drug in the area every week.

The crew ferried drugs and cash between the Bronx and Riverhead in cars equipped with secret compartments that opened only when buttons were pressed in a certain sequence, District Attorney Thomas Spota said.

Three men have been charged as a result of a seven-month investigation by the East End Drug Task Force, which includes members from the Suffolk district attorney's office, Suffolk and East End police departments, State Police and federal agents, Spota said. Other arrests are expected in the next few weeks, he said.

"This is a very sophisticated operation," Spota said.

Miguel Matos, 45, of 2476 Hughes Ave., the Bronx; Robert Love, 58, of 29 Oakland Dr. South, Riverhead; and Radames Melendes Jr., 22, of 2103 Honeywell Ave., the Bronx, have been indicted on various drug charges. Matos and Love face charges under the state's "drug kingpin" statute, aimed at major illegal drug distributors which has maximum penalties of 25 years to life in prison.

Spota said Melendes was a runner for the operation. Attorneys for the three men could not be reached for comment. The three are being held for arraignment. Matos and Melendes are expected to be arraigned on Friday, and Love is expected to be arraigned Aug. 8.

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Standing behind a table laden with cash, cocaine, a broken safe and tools of the drug trade, Spota said Matos had pressed the cocaine into bricks weighing 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) each. Every week, he drove three or four of the bricks, hidden in secret compartments in his car, to Riverhead, where Love put the cocaine in a similarly equipped car, Spota said. When Matos returned home, the compartments were stuffed with cash, Spota said.

Spota said the hidden compartments were elaborately wired to open only after pressing air conditioning, radio or other controls in a particular sequence. Secret compartments were a feature in another drug ring Suffolk authorities halted last year. In that case, authorities said William Wright shipped drugs hidden in high-end cars from California to Deer Park. Wright is awaiting trial.

At his home, Love would break up the kilos into grams and sell those for up to $60 each, Spota said. Love paid Matos $37,500 for each kilogram, he said.

He said the cocaine ultimately was sold on the streets of Greenport, Southampton and Hampton Bays. Matos likely distributed cocaine to other dealers besides Love, he said.

The drug ring began some time after Love was paroled in 2009 on an earlier drug charge, Spota said. He praised the undercover officers of the task force, as did Police Commissioner Edward Webber.

"This is a great day for Suffolk County law enforcement," Spota said, calling Matos a "significant" cocaine trafficker. His office has contacted other jurisdictions about him, he said.

Among the items police seized at Matos' operation in the Bronx was a Spanish language Bible.

"He was praying the cops didn't find him," Spota said, laughing. "He didn't read it enough, I guess."

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