By People Staff
Updated March 10, 1986 12:00 PM

It was a cold and snowy day on Vermont’s Middlebury College campus, and the students were getting ready for the annual Winter Carnival. But inside Mr. Up’s, a popular local restaurant, there was trouble. A police officer walked up to the part-time bartender and told him there was a problem with his car. When they went outside, the officer arrested John Zaccaro Jr., 22, son of Geraldine Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic vice-presidential candidate. The charge: selling an undercover cop $25 worth of cocaine, a felony that could carry a fine of $5,000 or five years in jail or both.

Police claim that young Zaccaro had been dealing since 1983. A search of his car and white clapboard off-campus house allegedly provided some damning evidence: six to eight grams of cocaine with a street value of $600 to $800, about $1,600 in cash and drug-related paraphernalia. “He took a year off when he was on the campaign trail with his mother,” Middlebury police sergeant David Wemette told reporters. “He was a dealer when he came back. He had been a dealer for quite some time.”

In fact, Zaccaro’s alleged drug dealing seemed to be an open secret on campus. Last year, in an April Fool’s issue of the campus newspaper, young John’s photo appeared in an ad spoofing his mother’s commercial for Pepsi-Cola. “My mom may drink Pepsi,” said the ad, “but I like COKE.” And around the campus, Zaccaro had earned the nickname the “Pharmacist.”

Ferraro was in Hawaii on a speaking tour when news of her son’s bust came. Her husband, John Zaccaro Sr., who narrowly avoided jail a year ago after pleading guilty to a realty fraud scheme, was unable to fly to his son’s side because of a blizzard in New York. Only the other students seemed unconcerned: Three days after the arrest they put on a skit for Winter Carnival called “Miami Vice on Ice.” It featured a mock shoot-out and drug bust.