Jury convicts trucker for 600 pounds of cocaine in reefer

| 2/14/2007

A federal jury last week convicted a trucker for possessing cocaine with an estimated street value of more than $28 million.

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Jasper Vargas, 41, of Mission, TX, was on the road in November 2004 when ICE agents learned that a tractor-trailer with drugs was headed to Chicago from Texas.

Vargas was stopped by Illinois State Police for speeding as he drove north on Interstate 57. Police and ICE agents searched Vargas' reefer trailer and found 157 bundles of cocaine hidden in a "secret compartment in the trailer's refrigeration unit," a news release stated.

Vargas' trailer had 620 pounds of cocaine, which officers estimated was worth $5.5 million wholesale and $28 million in "street value."

In the federal court trial, a witness testified that Vargas admitted transporting cocaine to Chicago for a Mexican drug cartel. Witnesses said they'd seen Vargas haul large illegal loads by covering up contraband with produce in his reefer trailer.

Vargas was convicted by a jury in Urbana, IL, of possessing more than five kilograms of cocaine with intent to distribute. With three previous felony drug convictions, Vargas faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole and a fine of $8 million, according to the ICE press release.