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4 Charged in LA-to-LI Cocaine Smuggling Ring

In this undated photo provided by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office in Hauppauge, N.Y., a secret compartment in a Nissan 350 Z is shown containing a stash of drugs. The car was among those used by a smuggling ring to move cash and cocaine between California and New York, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said at a news conference, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office)

Four Suffolk County men have been accused of running the distribution side of a multi-million dollar drug ring that used luxury vehicles to smuggle cocaine in secret compartments from Los Angeles to Long Island.

The suspects were arrested last month following an eight-month wiretap investigation after undercover detectives watched the last shipment arrive at a Deer Park motorcycle shop in a Nissan 350 Z, prosecutors said. The alleged ringleader, a West Hollywood man, has yet to be apprehended.


“To give you an idea of the money generated by this ring, they were purchasing the cocaine in California for $20,500 per kilo and then selling it in the streets of Suffolk County for a price approximately five times that amount once the cocaine was cut and prepared for distribution,” Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said at a news conference Wednesday in Hauppauge.

Pictures of cocaine and cash seized by police

Authorities seized more than 32 kilos of cocaine with an estimated street value of $3 million, illegal steroids, three money counters, paraphernalia, cocaine presses and $900,000 cash, Spota said.

Besides the secret compartments, the ring took extra precautions by placing the vehicles on car carriers ordinarily used by legitimate auto dealers. The car carrier companies weren’t aware that drugs were being shipped inside the vehicles, authorities said.

“This is one of the largest cocaine rings that was ever operated in Suffolk County,” said Jacob Kubetz, the assistant district attorney prosecuting the case.

Richard Occhino, 46, of Deer Park—the owner of Radical Rides on Grand Boulevard—pleaded not guilty to drug charges and is being held on $5 million bail. Occhino’s attorney, George Duncan, said his client “maintains his innocence.”

Robert Perticone, 30, also of Deer Park, is being held in jail after his bail was set at $2 million cash or $5 million bond. His attorney, Raymond Perini, said Perticone was a master plumber with no prior arrest record.

“It is easy to make these types of allegations; it is much more difficult to prove them,” Perini said.

Theodore Katsanos, 29, of Bay Shore and 33-year-old Jose Tejada of West Babylon, were the only two suspects whose bail was set at less than $1 million.

An attorney for Katsanos didn’t return a call for comment and Tejada’s attorney, David Smith, declined to comment.

All of the suspects were facing drug charges except Tejada, who was charged with conspiracy, although Spota said more charges are pending once a grand jury convenes.

They each face at least up to 20 years in prison. Additional arrests of low level drug dealers are also expected.

Police are still looking for 33-year-old William Wright, the accused California drug kingpin, who Spota said has prior drug distribution arrests in Washington.

“It is just a matter of time,” Spota said.

-With Associated Press


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