FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) _ For two years, the reputed leaders of South Florida's organized crime heirarchy knew Dave Green as a sleazy, tough-talking liquor bootlegger with a knack for picking winners at the horse tracks.

They found out Tuesday that Green actually is a cool, gutsy undercover detective with a talent for getting out of sticky situations.

Green, 48, was the center of Operation Cherokee, a two-year investigation that planted him deep inside organized crime in South Florida. As a result of his work, nine people were arrested in Florida and Boston Tuesday and up to 50 people could be arrested before completion of the invesitation, officials said.

The names involved allegedly include some of the most notorious in organized crime - Gambino, Genovese, Maggadino, Bufalino. But the most important name in the operation was Danny Ledford, the undercover identity used by Green, a 25-year law enforcement veteran.

''Dave is as good an undercover agent as you will find,'' said Steve Bertucelli, Green's boss at the Broward Sheriff's Office's Organized Crime Bureau. ''I knew he could handle the pressure.''

Green was set up as the operator of Cherokee Enterprises, a company that dealt in stolen liquor. He wore gold chains, drove a big black Lincoln Continental and, most importantly, struck up a friendship with Anthony Frank Guarnieri, 77, who was among those arrested Tuesday.

Green used his new friend's influence as an alleged capo in the Pennsylvania-based Bufalino organized crime family to tout his business to other suspected organized crime leaders in South Florida. It worked because of Green's special talent.

''He has the ability to think fast on his feet, to direct attention away from himself,'' Bertucelli said. ''Whenever someone started to get suspicious, he would quickly move them on to something else.''

Green, whose wife had a baby boy halfway through the undercover assignment, managed to walk the tightrope for two years. Some of the closest calls came when new business aquaintances threatened to frisk Green, who wore a hidden microphone throughout the case.

''If you don't like me, don't do business with me,'' he would say while pulling away from them.

Most decided to buy his liquor anyway. The business was so good two other officers were brought in to run the operation when Green wasn't around, Bertucelli said.

Green also used the knowledge he gained casing illegal bookmakers while working for Metro-Dade and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to impress his new associates. Like a bookie, he can calculate odds in his head.

By the end of the two years, investigators had hundreds of photos and more than 2,000 recorded conversations linking the suspects to narcotics sales, extortion, firearms violations, manufacturing of silencers, solicitation for homicide or infiltration of legitimate businesses, said Broward Sheriff's Office spokesman George Crolius.

The Sheriff's Office also had one burned-out undercover officer.

Green quit a job with the Metro-Dade Police after 20 years in 1979 only to return to the Law Enforcement Department two years later because he was bored working at a security firm. But this time, he said he may quit for good. The pressure is getting to him.

''It isn't healthy,'' he said. ''My wife is very happy it is over. It gets very, very old.''