FRESNO, CA — United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Anthony D. Williams announced today that U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill sentenced the last member of a Turlock drug ring, Noel Castillo, 38, to five years in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release for conspiring to distribute crystal methamphetamine and to possess crystal methamphetamine with the intent to distribute it.
According to court records, in February 2009, Castillo was identified as a drug trafficker through a federal wiretap of a phone used by Raymond Mendosa, 44, of Turlock. Law enforcement officers received information that Mendosa stashed methamphetamine in rural road ditches and edges of cornfields at night and then retrieved the drug the next day for distribution in the Stanislaus and Merced County areas. As a result of the investigation, Mendosa, along with Castillo and his wife, Denice Marie Hector, 35, and Alfredo Ayala, aka “Pollo,” 33, all of Turlock, were indicted and convicted in federal court in Fresno.
Mendosa was sentenced to 14 years and Ayala was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison for conspiring to distribute crystal methamphetamine. Hector was sentenced to two years probation for lying to DEA agents about the contents of a safe deposit box containing $199,832 in drug proceeds. In addition, agents seized more than 11 pounds of crystal methamphetamine, 14 firearms and a hand grenade. They also seized approximately $627,839 in cash.
Three additional defendants were charged in related federal cases in Sacramento and seven defendants were charged at the state level. In the related federal cases, Sheldon Linhares, 32, was sentenced to 12 years in prison; Chad Correia, 38, was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison; and Cecilia O’Day, 40, was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison in a conspiracy to traffic crystal methamphetamine to the island of Kauai in Hawaii.
This case is the product of the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation by the DEA and the Stanislaus Drug Enforcement Agency, with assistance from the Central Valley California High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) task force, and the California Multi-Jurisdictional Methamphetamine Enforcement Team (CAL-MMET). OCDETF is a focused interagency program investigating and prosecuting the most significant drug trafficking organizations throughout the United States by leveraging the combined expertise of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Karen Escobar, Richard Bender, and Michele Beckwith prosecuted the federal criminal cases and Assistant U.S. Attorney Alyson Berg handled civil forfeiture proceedings.