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LI man pleads not guilty in drug charges

A Riverhead man whom authorities say handled East End distribution for a major cocaine ring pleaded not guilty on Wednesday.

Robert Love, 58, is accused of helping to lead a sophisticated drug operation that sent about $200,000 worth of cocaine from the Bronx to Riverhead every week in cars equipped with secret compartments that opened only when buttons were pressed in a specific sequence, Suffolk County prosecutors said.

Suffolk County Judge Martin Efman ordered Love held on $500,000 cash bail or $1 million bond.

He is due back in court Aug. 17 on the charges that include conspiracy, sale of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance.

His two alleged cohorts -- Miguel Matos, 45, of the Bronx, who is accused of running the drug crew; and Radames Melendez Jr., 22, of the Bronx, an alleged runner for the operation -- both pleaded not guilty on Aug. 3. Matos is being held on $1 million cash bail or $2 million bond. Melendez is being held on $100,000 cash bail or $200,000 bond.

Love's lawyer, Toni Marie Angeli, of Garden City, said her client is a salvage company owner who works hard for whatever money he has. "He's a hard-working man living a modest existence," Angeli said. She said prosecutors are "overreaching."

In statements Love made to authorities at Suffolk County Jail in Riverhead, he seemed to implicate himself in the drug ring, court records show.

"I barely made enough money to keep my head above water," Love said, according to the papers filed by prosecutors.

"The guys I'm dealing with, I don't know their names or where they live," he also said, according to the records. "If I did, I would give them up in a heartbeat."

The drug ring began some time after Love was paroled in 2009 on an earlier drug charge, prosecutors said.

He has served several terms in prison for drug-related convictions, records show.

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