Accused Drug Kingpins Hid Cocaine in Secret Car Compartments: Cops

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    The accused drug-smugglers used hidden compartments in cars in what prosecutors call "one of the largest cocaine smuggling operations" in New York. (Published Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011)

    Four Long Island men have been arrested for their role in what prosecutors call "one of the largest cocaine smuggling operations" in New York.

    They hid the drugs and cash in secret compartments built into several cars, according to Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota.

    The cars were then loaded onto truck transports, which moved the vehicles back and forth between California to Long Island.

    "That's pretty ingenious, a good operation," added Spota. 

    Suffolk police ended the cloak and dagger operation last month, seizing 32 kilos of cocaine that had just arrived in two vehicles at a Deer Park motorcycle shop.

    More than eight hundred thousand dollars in cash were recovered later, investigators said.

    Undercover officers and wiretaps had been used in the eight month investigation, investigators added.

    The drug smuggling operation had continued for at least five years, Spota said, with the ring distributing millions of dollars in cocaine from Mexico.

    Prosecutors identified the local "kingpin" as Robert Perticone, 30 of North Babylon.

    His lawyer said he is innocent of the charges.

    "I don't believe my client is a wholesale cocaine dealer," said Perticone's lawyer, Ray Perini.

    Neighbors described Perticone as a plumber who lived a lavish lifestyle, with expensive cars, an elaborate home security system and wild backyard parties.

    "I just had a feeling all that wasn't coming from just plumbing," said neighbor Steve Quintana, who was so concerned, he wouldn't let his three kids play in the yard adjacent to Perticone's home.

    The other suspects have been identified as Richard Occhino, 46 of North Babylon; Theodore Katsanos, 29 of Bay Shore; Jose Tejada, 33 of West Babylon.  All have pleaded not guilty to felony drug charges.  Those charges could be upgraded, prosecutors added.

    More arrests are expected.

    The alleged "California kingpin," William Wright, 33, of Los Angeles is still on the loose.