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2 Found Guilty in NJ Drug Trial

March 1, 2000

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) _ A jury Tuesday found two men guilty of running a multimillion-dollar cocaine distribution network that authorities said flourished here for nearly a decade because of its high-ranking connections.

Jose ``J.R.″ Rivera and Luis ``Tun″ Figueroa were convicted of drug conspiracy. Rivera also was found guilty of money laundering and prosecutors moved to seize hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets.

Both defendants face up to life in prison. A sentencing date was not set.

``I can only say I’m pleased with the verdict,″ said Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Smith. ``It was certainly nice to have a verdict like that with these guys. It was time for them to come to justice.″

Prosecutors said Figueroa, 34, was the enforcer for the drug ring and Rivera, 40, was the financier.

Authorities have said the drug ring flourished because of its high-ranking connections. Witnesses at the trial said law enforcement officers shook down drug dealers for bribes and tipped them off about upcoming raids.

Testimony during the eight-week trial included allegations that Camden Mayor Milton Milan bought kilo shipments of cocaine in 1993, before he was elected. Witnesses also alleged that Milan tipped off drug dealers after he became mayor in 1997.

Milan, who has said Rivera was a boyhood acquaintance, has denied the allegations. He is not charged in the case and has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

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