BALTIMORE, OCT. 18 -- Brian Lee Tribble, acquitted in 1987 in connection with the drug overdose death of basketball star Len Bias, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to distribute cocaine in the years since Bias's death.

Appearing in federal court here, Tribble, 28, acknowledged he and a loose band of associates sold more than 110 pounds of cocaine over an 18-month period, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars. At one point, he was selling as much as 22 pounds a month, according to prosecutors, who have said he was a key figure in a major Washington area drug ring.

"Brian Tribble has brought pain, death and destruction to this community," Maryland U.S. Attorney Breckinridge L. Willcox said in a statement after the guilty plea. He told reporters, "If Mr. Tribble didn't learn his lesson in 1987 {from the Bias case}, I don't think he ever will."

Tribble was acquitted in 1987 of supplying the cocaine that killed Bias during a party in 1986 at the University of Maryland.

Under federal sentencing rules, Tribble faces a minimum of 10 years in prison without parole. Prosecutors recommended that amount, and U.S. District Judge Joseph C. Howard set sentencing for Jan. 8. Tribble's attorney, Thomas C. Morrow, said that by earning "good time" in prison, Tribble could be out in 8 1/2 years.

Morrow seemed to echo some of Willcox's sentiments, telling reporters Tribble represents a "snapshot of the drug tragedy of this country . . . . As long as a person can make as much money in one hour {selling drugs} as in one month of hard work, it will be a deadly attraction."

Tribble's plea came after he eluded arrest during an undercover drug operation Aug. 2 in the parking lot of the Sheraton Inn in New Carrollton.

He fled on foot as agents closed in but turned himself in four days later. He has been held without bond since then.

In the plea, Tribble also agreed to government seizure of his house in Forestville and three cars, including a 1979 Mercedes-Benz and a 1984 Nissan 300 ZX sports car.

Willcox said Tribble's cocaine ring was "major in size" and included "a number" of participants. He said the investigation is continuing and hinted that the ring may still be operating.

At least one other alleged member of the ring is behind bars. Ricardo Bernard Smith, described by prosecutors as a Tribble lieutenant, was recently convicted of cocaine possession in Alexandria federal court and is serving an 18-year prison term.

The Sheraton parking lot operation that led to Tribble's surrender was filmed and audio-taped, leaving Tribble little choice but to plead guilty, Morrow said.

On Aug. 1, the day before the attempted arrest, a Tribble supplier who had been arrested earlier by federal agents agreed to cooperate against Tribble, prosecutor E. Thomas Roberts said.

The supplier arranged by telephone to sell 8.8 pounds of cocaine to Tribble for about $100,000, prosecutors said.

Tribble drove to the Sheraton on Aug. 2 to make the deal. When agents moved in for the arrest, Tribble fled, first by car, then on foot, prosecutors said. He surrendered Aug. 6.

Coincidentally and unknown to the agents, jurors in the drug and perjury trial of D.C. Mayor Marion Barry were sequestered at the motel when Tribble eluded authorities there.

Some jurors said they witnessed the Tribble undercover incident, an issue raised by Barry attorneys, who contend it may have adversely affected deliberations.