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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Michigan

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Federal Court Sentences California-Based Drug Trafficking Head To 42 Years In Prison

          GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – United States Attorney Andrew Birge announced today that Alex Alberto Castro received 42 years in prison for conspiring to distribute heroin and cocaine.  A federal jury convicted Castro in October 2018.  He was the lead defendant of a 20-defendant drug conspiracy that began in 2013 and continued until all defendants were arrested in 2017. Chief United States District Judge Robert J. Jonker handed down the sentence..

          Evidence presented at trial proved Castro to be the lead California-based drug distributor, responsible for sending heroin and cocaine to Grand Rapids, Michigan, Indianapolis, Indiana, and Kansas, through the use of trap-cars, semi-trucks with custom-made concealed compartments, and car trailers.  Castro employed multiple drivers and maintained his drug distribution deliveries even while in prison for a federal supervised release violation in 2016.

          The conviction was the result of a multi-agency Federal and State investigation into the conspiracy.  The investigation began in 2016 and continued through 2017 and involved the wiretap of seven separate telephones used by multiple coconspirators.  In total, 24 defendants were convicted as a result of the charges brought in the investigation. During the arrests of the defendants and execution of associated searches, federal and state investigators seized over 30 kilograms of heroin, cocaine and fentanyl, multiple pounds of marijuana, two kilogram presses, over $1,300,000 in drug proceeds, a bullet-proof vest, three handguns and an assault rifle with an extended magazine.

          "Heroin, fentanyl and cocaine - trafficked into our state from other regions—have been a scourge to our community.  In Kent County alone, the number of overdose deaths from controlled substances increased by over 50% from 2016 to 2017 and we lost 156 of our neighbors to overdoses in 2017,” stated U.S. Attorney Birge.  “Our federal and state law enforcement partners will not rest until they have traced these drugs to their source, like Mr. Castro.  Stiff penalties like the one the Court issued here are warranted for those who would profit from this poison."

          DEA Special Agent in Charge Tim Plancon added, “This investigation is an example of DEA’s continuing effort to target the distribution of dangerous drugs at the highest level in western Michigan.  Castro was part of a drug distribution network spanning from Mexico to Michigan and beyond.  The men and women of DEA, along with our law enforcement partners and federal prosecutors, will continue our relentless pursuit to identify and investigate those trafficking illicit narcotics and committing related violent acts in our communities."

          Manny Muriel, Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit’s IRS Criminal Investigation, stated, “IRS-CI will continue to exploit its forensic capabilities to identify, trace and dismantle the financial networks of those individuals and organizations that bring drugs and crime into our state, exhausting all avenues to deny these criminals of their financial reward. Equally important, IRS-CI will utilize the forfeiture statutes to deprive these individuals and organizations of their ill-gotten gains."

          The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Vice Unit of the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD), Kent County Sheriff’s Department (KCSD), Wyoming Police Department, Michigan State Police (MSP), Kent Area Narcotics Enforcement Team (KANET), Metropolitan Enforcement Team (MET), U.S. Secret Service (USSS), Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), Kalamazoo Valley Enforcement Team (KVET),  Albion P.D., Calhoun County Sheriff Department, and South West Enforcement Team (SWET) have all supported the investigation.

          The image below shows items recovered through the law enforcement operation.

Picture of items recovered through law enforcement operation


Drug Trafficking
Updated February 19, 2019