News and Press Releases


THURSDAY - November 6, 2008


RALEIGH - United States Attorney George E.B. Holding announced that in federal court today United States District Judge James C. Dever, III, sentenced GRATINIANO CASTILLO, 41, an illegal alien residing in North Carolina, to 480 months’ imprisonment followed by five years supervised release.

A Federal Grand Jury returned a Criminal Indictment on November 8, 2007. On March 25, 2008, CASTILLO pled guilty to conspiring to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine.

CASTILLO was the primary supplier of an extensive drug distribution network from Houston, Texas to Eastern North Carolina.

The investigation revealed that CASTILLO supplied multiple kilogram amount of cocaine to various individuals for distribution primarily in Wilmington, North Carolina, from 2005, until his arrest in July, 2007. CASTILLO was responsible for the importation of at least 151 kilograms of cocaine into Eastern North Carolina.

On January 19, 2006, an officer with the Louisiana State Police made a traffic stop of a car driving to Wilmington, North Carolina. A search of the car uncovered 6.9 kilograms of cocaine in a hidden compartment in the trunk. The cocaine was sent by CASTILLO to Lacy Tate.

On March 8, 2007, an officer with the Dillon, South Carolina interdiction unit stopped a vehicle on I-95 in Dillon, South Carolina, of which CASTILLO was a passenger. Law enforcement found $295,890 in multiple duct-taped bundles in the car. CASTILLO offered to allow the police to keep the money if they would just let the people in the car leave without any further investigation. The money, determined to be drug proceeds, was forfeited to the Drug Enforcement Administration. After reviewing the evidence, the Court determined that CASTILLO had obstructed justice after attempting to bribe the officer.

On July 17, 2007, an officer with law enforcement in Louisiana stopped a vehicle on I-20 headed to Eastern North Carolina. Samuel Cofield was a passenger in the car. After the officer received consent to search the car, they found eight kilograms of cocaine in the spare tire. This had been supplied by CASTILLO to Cofield.

This investigation is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation entitled, Seven Day Ground. The investigation has uncovered organizations in Atlanta, Georgia and Houston, Texas that have been responsible for the importation of over 300 kilograms of cocaine and one kilogram of heroin into Eastern North Carolina and Virginia.

To date, as a result of the investigation, 11 people have entered guilty pleas in federal court, including Lacy Tate, who received 240 months imprisonment, Samuel Cofield, who received 210 months and Shahzan Mathur, who received 240 months.

Mr. Holding commented: “The success in this case demonstrates the value and purpose of our Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. Extensive cooperation by law enforcement in the southeastern United States was critical to interrupting and dismantling this organization.”

Investigation of the case was conducted by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation; Louisiana Federal Bureau of Investigation; Dillon Sheriff’s Department; West Lake, Louisiana, Police Department; Lake Charles, Louisiana, Police Department; South West Louisiana Crime Laboratory; Louisiana State Police Department; Houston Police Department; Texas Department of Public Safety; Wilmington Drug Enforcement Administration; and the Wilmington Police Department. The United States was represented by Special Assistant United States Attorney Timothy Severo. Mr. Severo is a prosecutor with the New Hanover District Attorney’s Office. District Attorney Ben David has assigned him to the United States Attorney’s Office to prosecute federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force criminal matters. This has been made possible by a grant funded by the Governor’s Crime Commission and the New Hanover County Commissioners.


News releases are available on the U. S. Attorney’s web page at within 48 hours of release.

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