Adolph Vargas, one of five defendants indicted in the investigation into the 2008 kidnapping of 6-year-old Cole Puffinburger, pleaded guilty to drug and money laundering charges Tuesday in federal court in Las Vegas.
Four other defendants, including two men charged with abducting the boy at gunpoint from his home over a drug deal gone bad, are to stand trial next week before U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro.
In an agreement with prosecutors, Vargas pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and one count of money laundering. His sentencing is set for 1:30 p.m. April 29.
The kidnapping, which authorities tied to a Mexican drug cartel, and the search for the boy attracted national attention. Cole was found in Las Vegas, unharmed, several days after his abduction.
The kidnapping occurred after Cole’s grandfather, Clemens Fred Tinnemeyer, allegedly stole millions of dollars from the cartel. Federal authorities charged Tinnemeyer with transporting cash hidden in his motor home across state lines as part of a racketeering enterprise.
Prosecutors acknowledged that Tinnemeyer “was not a supervisor, leader or organizer in the drug trafficking operation.” Los Angeles defense lawyer William Pitman declined comment.
The lead defendants in the case, Jose Lopez-Buelna and Luis Vega-Rubio, each face kidnapping and hostage taking charges.