Pubdate: Sat, 13 Mar 1999
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer (PA)
Copyright: 1999 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.
Author: Dwight Ott, Inquirer Staff Writer


Another member of Camden's largest drug ring pleaded guilty to
conspiracy yesterday and admitted his role in an organization that
authorities say brought millions of dollars worth of cocaine into the
city during the last decade. 

Eduardo "Quattro" Vargas, 31, of Queens, N.Y., pleaded guilty during an
afternoon hearing before U.S. District Judge Joseph Rodriguez to one count
of conspiracy to distribute
cocaine. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin T. Smith said Vargas admitted
in court to participating in the distribution of more than 150
kilograms of cocaine in Camden. Smith said that Vargas sold the drug
to codefendants Saul Febo and Luis "Tun Tun" Figueroa, assisted by
other associates Noel Ruiz, Eduardo Negroni and Alba Restrepo. 

Vargas'attorney Rocco Cipparone Jr. said his client told the court that he
sold large quantities to Febo and others in or near "the Alley," the
nickname for the strip where dealers belonging to a group dubbed The
Organization allegedly operated a large, open-air drug market. 

Vargas also claimed to have received Febo's permission to make his own sales
in the gang's territory. Working with the Camden County Prosecutor's
Office, federal authorities spent more than 18 months investigating
the drug ring. 

With help from some members, authorities secretly 
recorded drug-related conversations and meetings on audiotape and
videotape. After being shown that evidence, six members of the ring
pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate.

Vargas became the seventh to plead guilty.

Still others are awaiting their day in court. Cipparone would not say
whether his client would cooperate with authorities. He said Vargas'
plea agreement called for a "downward departure from the otherwise
mandatory minimum sentence" if he did decide to cooperate. "Just
because he pleaded[guilty]doesn't mean he's cooperating," said Smith,
the assistant U.S. attorney, who added that Vargas faced a minimum of
10 years to life behind bars on the charge. Vargas was arrested with
the assistance of federal authorities in August 1997, according to
Smith. He was already in custody when he became one of 13 defendants
charged as part of a drug-gang sweep in February 1998.

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