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Pair held in sale of "date-rape pill'

Less than a month after Florida authorities stiffened the penalty for people caught with the drug Rohypnol, two Pinellas County residents have been charged with selling 1,000 of the powerful sedative pills to an undercover Hillsborough sheriff's deputy.

Deputies arrested Damien Lupin Vargas, 22, of Clearwater and Tara Marie Haley, 19, of Palm Harbor on Thursday afternoon in a parking lot at Columbus Drive and Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa. Sheriff's spokesman Jack Espinosa said the two had agreed to meet undercover deputies at that location to sell the pills for $2 each.

Rohypnol also is known as the "date-rape pill" because it has been used by rapists to knock out their victims. Banned in the United States, it is used in about 60 countries to treat insomnia.

Virtually unknown five years ago, the drug has become increasingly popular among young people, who sometimes use it to heighten the intoxicating effects of alcohol.

Possession and sale of more than 10 grams of Rohypnol were made first-degree felonies last month when Attorney General Bob Butterworth put the drug in the same class as heroin, cocaine and LSD.

Haley and Vargas were charged with possession of Rohypnol and possession with intent to distribute. They were being held in the Hillsborough County Jail late Friday on $15,000 bail.

_ CHARLES HOSKINSON

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