PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | A collection of the drugs, cash, and tools seized by the East End Drug Task Force during a seven-month investigation.
Two men charged as the leaders of a massive cocaine smuggling ring that carried more than three kilos of drugs a week on average to the East End and the man accused of being the ring’s courier have pleaded not guilty, court records show.
Robert Love, 58, of Riverhead, Miguel Matos, 45, and Radames “Ray” Melendez, 22, both of the Bronx all pleaded not guilty to the slew of drug charges against them, according to online records.
Mr. Love, a parolee who was previously convicted of sale and possession of cocaine and released from prison December 2009, was held at the Suffolk County jail on $1 million bond or $500,000 cash bail. Mr. Matos, who officials said ferried drugs from the Bronx to Mr. Love to sell across the East End, was held on $2 million bond or $1 million cash bail.
Mr. Melendez was held on $200,000 bond or $100,000 cash bail.
Mr. Love and Mr. Matos are being charged under the state’s three-year-old “kingpin statute,” which carries heavier sentences for major distributors of illegal drugs.
The two men face charges of operating as a major trafficker as a profiteer from sale, operating as a major trafficker as a profiteer from possession, first-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance — all class A1 felonies that carry top sentences of life imprisonment. They also face a charge of second-degree conspiracy, a class B felony.
Mr. Matos was additionally charged with operating as a major trafficker as director of a controlled substance operation, a class A1 felony.
Mr. Melendez is facing charges of first-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and first-degree conspiracy.
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said the ring used hidden compartments in vehicles to transport the drugs.
Mr. Love received about a kilo of cocaine, worth about $37,000, every other day, officials said. He would then break the kilos into gram-sized chunks and sell them in Greenport, Riverhead, Flanders and Southampton for $50 and $60 a gram.
Mr. Spota said hundreds got cocaine from the ring, adding that though authorities were unsure where the drugs came from, a “significant amount” of money was being transferred to the Dominican Republic as part of the cocaine ring.
Detectives retrieved thousands in cash, drugs and tools used to compress the cocaine into kilos for sale, Mr. Spota added.
The men were arrested June 13 by Riverhead Town police and were held in custody awaiting grand jury indictment, which was handed up July 26, according to court records. Mr. Love was arrested at his home in Riverhead; he allegedly tried to flee police and threw a kilo of cocaine over a fence during the arrest.
Mr. Love is due back in court on Aug. 17, while Mr. Matos and Mr. Melendez are scheduled to appear this Friday, according to court records.