Frederick A. Springer, 55, and two other members of what prosecutors said was a major cocaine distribution ring were sentenced yesterday to prison terms ranging from four to 10 years by U.S. District Judge Harold H. Greene.

Springer, who has a record of convictions for robbery and illegal gambling going back 30 years, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined $25,000.

"Back in 1980, I didn't know what cocaine was," Springer told Greene. "You could have given me a bag of flour and a bag of cocaine and I wouldn't know which the cocaine was." But he explained that when someone asked if he could sell cocaine, "I saw I could make $4,000 profit. It seemed too easy. I couldn't turn it down."

Springer and the two others pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to distribute cocaine, Dilaudid, and marijuana several days before they were scheduled to go on trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Harkins, who sought the 10-year sentence, said the statement showed that Springer, who lived in New Jersey and Washington, "knew it was against the law. It was an easy way to make a living."

Harkins said that from 1981 to 1983 the ring that Springer ran sold at least $1.3 million worth of cocaine and Dilaudid in the District and Northern Virginia.

Luis Verez of Miami was sentenced to five years in prison. Harkins said Verez was a truck driver who transported cocaine "up and down the East Coast." He is currently serving a 40-year sentence there for cocaine distribution. The new sentence will be served concurrently, Greene said.

Benjamin Adranga of Toms River, N.J., whom Harkins said delivered drugs for the ring, was sentenced to four years in prison.