Pubdate: Fri, 22 Nov 2002
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2002 The New York Times Company
Author: Lydia Polgreen
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


Angelo Bermudez ran an auto body shop in the Bronx and owned a prizewinning 
collection of antique cars. They included a 1959 Chevrolet Impala, a 1956 
Bel Air wagon and a candy-apple-red 1962 Corvette convertible, as well as a 
turquoise 1954 Ford truck and a 1957 Volkswagen Beetle.

He also operated a multimillion-dollar drug-smuggling operation, law 
enforcement officials say, moving a ton of cocaine and almost as much 
marijuana in the last two years.

Last Friday, the officials say, the combination of drugs and fancy cars was 
the undoing of Mr. Bermudez, 35, when he put his cars up as collateral for 
a $1.25 million shipment of cocaine. Mr. Bermudez was arrested that day on 
a street corner in Inwood near a parking lot where his cars were delivered 
by flatbed truck to be held as security on 50 kilograms of cocaine, said 
Anthony Placido, the special agent in charge of the New York office of the 
federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

Speaking at a news conference yesterday to announce the arrest, Mr. Placido 
said Mr. Bermudez ran a huge operation that bought drugs from cartels in 
Mexico and Colombia, trucked it across the Mexican border to the Northeast 
and distributed it to dealers in New York and Boston. "This was an 
organization that was moving multiton levels of cocaine with $8 million in 
assets," Mr. Placido said.

In the last two years, federal, state and local law enforcement officials 
seized large shipments of drugs from trucks they thought belonged to Mr. 
Bermudez's operation. Investigators said the shipments originated in 
Sonora, Mexico, and were sent north in tractor-trailer trucks holding drugs 
in secret compartments and carrying fruit, and other legal imports. The 
operation later used sport utility vehicles, investigators said.

Though they arrested several of Mr. Bermudez's associates, investigators 
had been unable to connect him directly to the drugs, said Bridget G. 
Brennan, the city's special prosecutor for narcotics. But Mr. Bermudez was 
on hand when his cars were delivered, Ms. Brennan said, enabling agents to 
arrest him.

Mr. Bermudez and three associates were being held yesterday without bail at 
Rikers Island awaiting indictment.
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