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Press Release

Defendant Pleads Guilty To 2011 Murder

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that MICHAEL CASTILLO, a/k/a “Squirrel,” pled guilty today in Manhattan federal court in connection with the March 10, 2011, murder of Hector Arias in the Bronx, New York.  U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl accepted the defendant’s guilty plea.  

U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “Today, Michael Castillo admitted that he shot and killed Hector Arias in 2011.  This guilty plea shows that law enforcement will relentlessly seek justice for murder victims and their loved ones, regardless of the passage of time.”

According to the allegations in the Indictment and other filings and statements made in court:

CASTILLO was a member of a conspiracy to distribute marijuana centered near 193rd Street and Broadway in New York, New York.  CASTILLO was hired by the leader of the conspiracy, David Espinal, a/k/a “D-Block,” to kill Hector Arias, the leader of a rival marijuana business operating in the same area.  On March 10, 2011, CASTILLO shot and killed Arias outside Arias’s home at 712 East Gun Hill Road in the Bronx, New York.  The murder plot arose out of the rivalry between the two marijuana businesses. 

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CASTILLO, 38, pled guilty to one count of murder through the use of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(j), which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison and a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison.  The statutory maximum and minimum penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant would be determined by the judge.

CASTILLO is scheduled to be sentenced before Judge Koeltl on October 15, 2021, at 10:00 a.m.

On or about December 8, 2020, CASTILLO’s codefendant, Espinal, pled guilty to conspiring to kill Arias, among other offenses.  During his guilty plea, Espinal admitted to hiring a hitman to kill Arias.    

Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and its Westchester County Safe Streets Task Force in this case. 

This case is being handled by the Office’s Violent and Organized Crime Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys Jamie Bagliebter, Maurene Comey, Peter Davis, Scott Hartman, Lindsey Keenan, and Jacqueline Kelly are in charge of the prosecution.


James Margolin, Nicholas Biase
(212) 637-2600

Updated July 9, 2021

Firearms Offenses
Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 21-169