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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, June 20, 2019

Two Defendants Charged In Manhattan Federal Court With 2011 Murder-For-Hire

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and James P. O’Neill, Police Commissioner of the City to New York (“NYPD”), today announced the unsealing of two Indictments charging DAVID ESPINAL, a/k/a “D-Block,” and MICHAEL CASTILLO, a/k/a “Squirrel,” with murder for hire and the March 10, 2011, murder of Hector Arias in the Bronx, New York. 

ESPINAL was taken into custody this morning in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and will be presented in federal court in that District today.  CASTILLO was taking into custody this morning in the Northern District of Texas and will be presented in federal court in that District today.  This case is assigned to U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “As alleged, eight years ago, David Espinal and Michael Castillo reduced the value of a man’s life to a dollar figure.  Their arrests today show that the passage of time does not insulate alleged murderers from investigation, apprehension, and prosecution. We hope that brings some measure of relief to the family of Hector Arias.”

FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “Mr. Espinal was so deadly serious about selling marijuana, he allegedly hatched a plan to kill a rival.  He and the man he’s accused of hiring to carry out the murder have been on the run since 2011.  They most likely believed they were in the clear, thinking no one was looking for them after all these years.  The FBI Westchester County Safe Streets Task Force and our law enforcement partners don’t let time stand in the way of catching alleged murderers and bringing them to justice.”

Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill said:  “Today’s charges are evidence that NYPD investigators do not forget victims, and they do not ever forget the justice that is owed to those victims’ families.  All New Yorkers deserve to be safe, and to feel safe.  The NYPD and our colleagues at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District will stop at nothing until every street, in every neighborhood of New York City, is as safe as our safest streets are today.”

As alleged in the Indictments unsealed today in Manhattan federal court[1]:

In or around March 2011, ESPINAL hired CASTILLO to murder Hector Arias.  On March 10, 2011, CASTILLO carried out the plan and murdered Arias by shooting him in the vicinity of 712 East Gun Hill Road in the Bronx, New York.  ESPINAL paid CASTILLO for murdering Arias.  The murder plot arose out of a conspiracy to distribute marijuana.

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A chart containing the names of the defendants charged in the Indictments, and the charges and maximum and minimum penalties they face, is attached.  The statutory maximum and minimum penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencings of the defendants would be determined by the judge.

Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI in this case.  Mr. Berman also thanked the NYPD and the United States Probation Office for their assistance in the investigation.

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

The charges contained in the Indictments are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

United States v. David Espinal, 19 Cr. 428

United States v. Michael Castillo, S1 19 Cr. 428

CHARGE(S)

DEFENDANT(S)

MAXIMUM PENALTIES

Murder for Hire

DAVID ESPINAL (age 44)

MICHAEL CASTILLO (age 36)

Life in prison or death

 

Mandatory minimum:
Life in prison

Murder through Use of a Firearm

DAVID ESPINAL

MICHAEL CASTILLO

Life in prison or death

 

Mandatory minimum:

5 years in prison

Travel Act Murder

DAVID ESPINAL

MICHAEL CASTILLO

Life in prison

 

 


 

 

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictments, as well as the descriptions of the Indictments set forth below constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Topic(s): 
Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 
19-195
Updated June 20, 2019