Suspected cocaine ring is shut down by authorities



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. ••

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