By George Anastasia
Kaboni Savage worked holidays.
The North Philadelphia drug kingpin made major cocaine purchases on Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to a big-time coke dealer who testified for the prosecution this afternoon at Savage's drug trafficking/murder trial.
The fact that Savage was under house arrest and wearing a court-ordered electronic ankle bracelet at the time didn't slow him down, said Juan Rosado as he described holiday deliveries that he made to Savage's home on Darien Street in North Philadelphia in November and December 2000.
Rosado, a self-described "multi-million dollar cocaine trafficker," was the second supplier to testify for the government in the Savage trial, which is now in its third week. The trial, which is expected to last from three to four months, stems from a 12-year FBI investigation into the Savage organization.
The case includes allegations of drug dealing, money-laundering and 12 murders. Authorities allege that Savage, 38, a former boxer, used fear, intimidatiion and violence to control a drug network that pumped hundreds of kilograms of cocaine onto the streets of Philadelphia.
Rosado, a stocky, soft-spoken former New Yorker who began cooperating after being arrested in a heroin deal that went bad in January 2001, said Savage was "one of my best customers." He estimated that betwen the summer of 2000 and January 2001, he sold Savage between 125 and 150 kilos of cocaine.
The price per kilo, he said, ranged from $24,000 to $30,000.
His dealings included, he said, the delivery of nine kilograms on Thanksgiving Day and five more on Christmas Day. Each time, he said, Savage called him and said "he needed work."
"Work," Rosado said, was code for drugs. Rosado testified that while his wife was upset that he was being asked to make deliveries on the holidays, he said he did so because Savage was an important customer and because it was the chance to make more money.
On Christmas Day, he said, he delivered the cocaine to Savage and also gave Savage two gift certificates (for from $100 to $200) for Red Lobster. The restaurant gifts, he said, "were in appreciation" for all of Savage's business.
Rosado, who told the same stories when he testified against Savage in a 2005 drug trial, did quibble over a part of that earlier testimony. In 2005 Rosado told a jury that he moved about 1,000 kilograms of cocaine in Philadelphia in the year leading up to his arrest in January 2001, according to a transcript of his testimony cited by a defense attorney. He also said he sold smaller quantities of heroin.
But this afternoon, Rosado said the 1,000 kilogram estimate might have been high.
"That's a lot of cocaine," he said.
In fact, the defense pointed out, it's about 2,200 pounds or "more than a ton" of cocaine. Rosado also testified that he made a profit of between $500 and $1,500 on each kilo of coke that he sold which would have placed his drug earnings at between $500,000 and $1.5 million on the estimated 1,000 kilograms.
Rosado said he lived well as a drug dealer with a nice home and two cars, a Jaguar and a Lincoln Navigator. The home, the cars and his money were lost after he pleaded guilty and began cooperating.
In exchange for his cooperation, he was sentenced to five years in prison. He was released in 2006.
Rosado's testimony offered the jury yet another look at the lucrative but highly volatile world of drug dealing, He said he was arrested in January 2001 after being shot and robbed by men to whom he thought he was going to sell 390 grams of heroin.,
Rosado said he realized there was a problem when he arrived at the pre-arranged meeting spot "and saw a big gentleman with a gun in his hand."
That, he said, was the "tipoff that things weren't right."
Rosado also testified that Savage threatened him and his family after suspecting that he had begun cooperating. Both he and Savage were in the Federal Dention Center in Philadelphia at the time. Inmates, he said, communicated through toilet bowls from one floor of the prison to another.
"They take the water out of the bowl and talk into it," said Rosado, who said inmates call it "the phone."
He said he received two "phone calls" from Savage. In the first, he said, Savage told him, "I heard you ain't right," meaning he suspected Rosado was cooperating.
Rosado said he denied that he had become a government informant, even though he had.
In a second call, he said, Savage went on a rant, angrily threatening him and his family, including his infant son.
"He called me a fuckin' rat and said he was going to kill my whole family," Rosado said.
The homicides charged in the current case include the deaths of six people -- two women and four children ranging in age from 15-months to 15 years -- in a firebombing the government alleges Savage ordered from prison in 2004.
The victims were members of Eugene Coleman's family, including his mother and infant son. Coleman, like Rosado, was a former drug dealing associate of Savage's who began cooperating against him.
Both Coleman and Rosado were government witnesses in the 2005 drug dealing trial that ended with Savage conviction. He is currently serving a 30-year sentence in that case. He and two co-defendants face potential death sentences if convicted of the homicides that are part of the current trial.
Both Coleman and Lamont Lewis, one of the individuals who allegedly firebombed the house, are expected to testify in the ongoing case.
Co-defendant Robert Merritt, 31, is charged with the firebombing. He and Lewis allegedly threw bottles of gasoline into the rowhome on North 6th Street where Coleman's mother, Marcella and other family members lived. The explosion and subsequent fire engulfed the first floor, trapping the victims in second floor bedrooms where they died.
The early morning arson, in October 2004, is considered one of the worst examples of witness intimidation in a Philadelphia drug underworld where witness intimidation is rampant.
Savage's sister, Kidada, 30, another co-defendant, is charged with setting up the firebombing.
A fourth co-defendant, Steven Northington, 40, is not charged with the firebombing, but has been linked to several other murders in the case. He has been described by authorities as an "enforcer" for Savage. Northington and Merritt, like Kaboni Savage, face possible death sentences. Kidada Savage could be sentenced to life.
Rosado spent nearly three hours on the witness stand. Other than disputing the 1,000 kilogram statement, he basically stuck to the same story he had told at the earlier trial. When challenged about this on cross-examination, he calmly replied, "The truth never changes, sir."
George Anastasia can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.