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LEADER OF DRUG RINGS, COHORTS ARE CONVICTED

Ricardo Melendez, who ran what law enforcers described as one of New York's most vicious heroin and cocaine rings, was convicted Sunday of drug conspiracy, racketeering and money laundering.

Melendez, 30, and eight of his Brooklyn cohorts were accused of running a savvy drug operation, raking in as much as $10 million monthly, peddling heroin and cocaine to residents of some of Brooklyn's poorest neighborhoods.

The other eight, including his No. 2 man, Manuel Concepcion, also were convicted of various charges, including murder, kidnapping and drug conspiracy.

The trial before U.S. District Judge Arthur Spatt was a long narrative of physical intimidation, torturous violence and fantastic riches for Melendez and Concepcion, who both face mandatory life terms, and their crew.

The jury heard from a series of witnesses who had double-crossed Melendez and his top lieutenants and paid for it with maimings and mutilations -- ice-pick stabbings, teeth pulled out, fingers chopped off.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter R. Ginsberg said the defendants "polluted the streets" of New York with millions of dollars worth of drugs and guarded their organization with "ruthless, vicious violence."

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