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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, June 26, 2015

Drug Trafficker Sentenced To 15 Years In Prison

He Texted Pictures Of Dead Man Who Was Kidnapped, Tortured And Murdered In Drug Deal Gone Bad

SAN DIEGO – Drug trafficker Juan Castro-Navarro - who a prosecutor contends used his cell phone to document the kidnapping, torture and murder of a man in retaliation for the theft of 10 pounds of methamphetamine - was sentenced in federal court today to 182 months in prison.

According to court documents, Castro, aka “J,” sent photos of the victim in a series of text messages to fellow traffickers and his girlfriend or wife, at one point telling her during one exchange: “I just want you to know that I love you guys and that I’m only going to kill one more. I have never killed anyone who didn’t deserve it. I’ll see you later.”

Upon receiving the images, the girlfriend replied: “What is this? Are you OK? Thank God. Be careful my love. I love you with all my heart.”

In other text exchanges, Castro and other traffickers bent on revenge for the robbery of the methamphetamine used emoticons to express feelings. According to court records, one individual, identified as Pokemon, texted: “Did you beat him or choke him?” Castro replied: “The second.” Pokemon’s response, “Very well,” and then he used a semi-colon and a parenthesis to denote a winking face.

Castro pleaded guilty on January 13, 2015, to conspiracy to distribute over 40 kilograms of methamphetamine and two kilograms of heroin. In furtherance of the conspiracy, Castro admitted that he managed other codefendants in the distribution of methamphetamine and heroin within California, and from California to Utah, Washington and other parts of the United States. He was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel, who granted the government’s request for a sentencing enhancement because of the evidence of violence found on Castro’s cell phone. At the sentencing hearing, Judge Curiel stated that Castro had become a “monster” based on the violence shown in the case, and deemed the narcotics that Castro trafficked within the United States “poison.”

U.S. authorities did not charge Castro with murder because the U.S. government lacked jurisdiction since it appears the victim was not a U.S. citizen and the crime occurred in Tijuana. However, in order to get the sentencing enhancement, the prosecutor filed, among other things, a supplemental sentencing document – a newspaper article. The article from a Tijuana newspaper said that a dead person wrapped in a blanket, wearing a black sweatshirt and jeans and showing signs of beating on his entire body, was found on January 23, 2014 – the day after Castro sent the text messages. The victim in the text message photos had been wearing the same clothing.

In the spring of 2013, HSI agents began investigating Castro and his distribution network. Their investigation indicated that Castro was a narcotics broker who would pair Mexico-based sources of supply with customers outside California, and facilitate the transportation of narcotics to the customers. To further the investigation, in November 2013 court authorization was received to intercept two telephones used by Castro. During the first 30-day period of interception, agents successfully seized 19 pounds of methamphetamine and over two pounds of heroin from a load car leaving a stash house, located in Ontario, California, used by Castro. Following the seizure, based on interceptions indicating that the stash house was being emptied, a court-authorized search was executed at the stash house and agents seized an additional 41 pounds of methamphetamine, $68,850 and three firearms.

According to court documents, in January 2014, interception continued on one of Castro’s telephones. While intercepting Castro’s telephone, agents learned that Castro and codefendant Oscar Ureta-Cervantes, who has also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and heroin and awaits sentencing, and another individual known as Marlon coordinated the sale of 10 pounds of methamphetamine. Ureta was to deliver the methamphetamine to an individual known as David in Los Angeles. However, on the morning of January 22, 2014, Ureta was robbed of the 10 pounds of methamphetamine. In retaliation and in order to recover the stolen methamphetamine, a gang member associated with David was kidnapped in Tijuana, Mexico by Marlon and other individuals.

After the kidnapping, Castro joined Marlon. Castro then took photographs of the kidnapped victim with his cell phone and sent them to Ureta, and the girlfriend and others. The first photograph shows an individual with a black eye, tied and taped, sitting in a chair with hands behind his back. The victim is wearing a black sweatshirt and green/gray jeans. After Castro sent the first photograph, he sent a message to Ureta, stating: “I’m so f---ing pissed and these people are doing as I say.” In another conversation, Castro informed Ureta that they were “extracting information” from the victim.

In another conversation, Castro informed Ureta: “I haven’t killed him because he says he is going to bring me 20 pieces” [units of narcotics]. Castro then sent another photograph to Ureta. The photograph shows a person wearing a black and white jacket holding down the victim with one knee on the victim’s back as the person pulls on one end of a baseball bat. The victim is face down on a concrete floor with his pants half off. Another person in a blue plaid shirt is holding the victim’s head down. A third person, wearing black boots, is standing nearby holding a baseball bat.

Half an hour later, Castro sent Ureta another photograph of the victim. The photograph shows the victim, face down and naked from the waist down, with a green plastic bag over his head as one person is stepping on the back of the victim’s head, another is holding the victim’s arms behind his back, and a third is stepping on the victim’s legs. The victim’s buttocks show signs of bruising. Castro then stated that the victim was “gone.” Shortly thereafter, Castro admitted via text message to Pokemon, as noted above, that the victim had been choked. Castro then sent Ureta a final photograph of the victim. The last photograph shows a lifeless body, wrapped in a blanket.

During the torture, Castro also sent his girlfriend the photographs described above and several messages, telling her not to worry because he was working. Castro instructed her to “look at it [the first photograph] and erase it,” and further reminded Eloisa “not to forget to erase” their conversations. Then, in the early morning hours of January 23, 2014, Castro messaged his girlfriend: “Open up, Hun,” showing that Castro had arrived home.


DEFENDANT    
Juan Castro-Navarro Age: 43 Hometown: Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico
 
CHARGES

Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine and Heroin – Title 21, U.S.C., Sections 841(a)(1) and 846
Maximum penalty: Life imprisonment and a mandatory minimum term of 10 years and $10 million fine

 
INVESTIGATING AGENCIES

Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)

Updated July 23, 2015