Leader Of Drug Smuggling Operation Gets Long Prison Term
PHILADELPHIA – Higinio Castillo, 25, residing in Philadelphia, was sentenced today to 20 years in prison for running a large-scale drug smuggling operation, known as the Castillo Drug Smuggling Organization (CDSO). Castillo and the members of the CDSO recruited couriers who secreted packets of heroin inside their bodies in order to smuggle the drugs into the United States from the Dominican Republic. Between November 2010 and March 2012, Castillo imported more than eight kilograms of heroin and more than one kilogram of cocaine. He pleaded guilty on April 29, 2014 to 13 counts including conspiracy, kidnapping, and numerous drug charges.
Castillo lured people into acting as mules with promises of money and free vacations. He personally participated in the kidnapping of one drug courier whom he accused of absconding with about a pound of heroin, and he unsuccessfully attempted to obtain the children of another courier who had not returned the heroin that she had imported. Castillo’s drug supplier was a relative in the Domincan Republic.
Castillo ran the CDSO with co-defendant Michael Nunez-Rodriguez. Rodriguez and the nine remaining defendants have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. After recruiting the couriers, members of the CDSO would drive them to airports and pick them up upon their return. After the couriers cleared U.S. Customs, they were taken to an apartment controlled by the CDSO where they would expel the drug pellets. The CDSO would then repackage the drugs for sale. When a courier was suspecting of stealing the smuggled drugs, the members would intimidate and threaten the courier.
In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Court Judge Legrome D. Davis ordered 10 years of supervised release, a $5,000 fine, and a $1,300 special assessment. The government is also seeking forfeiture of all assets derived from any criminal activity.
The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with assistance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Philadelphia Police, Pennsylvania State Police, and the Philadelphia District Attorney=s Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Nancy Rue.