Local and federal authorities have shut down a Port Richmond auto repair shop that they claim was the hub of a multi-million dollar cocaine distribution ring with ties to one of the world’s most powerful drug cartels.
District Attorney Seth Williams last Wednesday announced the arrests of 17 people and the seizure of 28 kilograms of cocaine, $300,000 in cash, five guns, 16 automobiles and 11 properties, including the auto garage on the 3000 block of Martha St.
The confiscated drugs have a “street value” of about $3 million, according to the DA.
Among those arrested were three residents of Northeast Philadelphia, including Anibal Cruz, 45, the purported owner of the Martha Street repair shop; Ricardo Rivera Colon, 36, who authorities described as the ringleader; and Jorge Rivera, 38. The DA’s office did not disclose their home addresses.
Investigators executed search warrants at three Northeast properties on the 7200 block of Rutland St., the 7000 block of Dorcas St. and the 1100 block of Tyson Ave., the DA’s office said.
The arrests and raids culminated a three-month investigation by the DA’s Dangerous Drug Offenders Unit. In September 2011, agents from the same unit arrested three alleged members of the Mexico-based Sinaloa organization, “one of the largest and most powerful drug cartels in the world,” Williams said.
One defendant in the earlier case informed investigators that the Martha Street garage and other local repair shops were equipping vehicles with hidden compartments enabling drug traffickers to smuggle contraband to Philadelphia from New York City via interstate highways.
The traffickers also used the Martha Street garage to coordinate distribution of the drugs and to operate an illegal cockfighting ring, the DA said.
Cruz has been charged with cruelty to animals in addition to drug possession, distribution and conspiracy. Colon, Rivera and 14 other defendants were charged with drug possession, distribution, conspiracy and related offenses.
Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.