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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Charlotte Drug Cell Leader Sentenced To 20 Years In Prison For Heroin Trafficking Charges

United States Attorney Anne M. Tompkins Western District Of North Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – On Monday, March 2, 2015, Chief U.S. District Judge Frank D. Whitney sentenced Hector Manuel Castaneda Gastelo, 31, of Mexico, to serve 240 months in prison on drug trafficking charges, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Gastelo pleaded guilty in May 2014 to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute heroin.

U.S. Attorney Tompkins is joined in making today’s announcement by John S. Comer, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which oversees the Charlotte District Office, Chief Rodney D. Monroe of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, and Chief Rob Merchant of the Pineville Police Department.

According to filed court documents and today’s sentencing hearing, beginning in 2012 through September 2013, Gastelo was a Charlotte drug cell leader responsible for arranging bulk shipments of heroin from Mexico using a transportation network and couriers based out of Los Angeles. Court documents show that Gastelo also managed a group of lower-level conspirators who packaged and sold the heroin in Charlotte. According to court documents, Gastelo also facilitated the return of drug proceeds to Mexico. Filed documents indicate that Gastelo and his conspirators trafficked to the Charlotte area between 10 and 30 kilograms of heroin with a street value of more than $1 million dollars. Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement seized approximately $170,000 in cash, and almost 40 kilograms of heroin.

This prosecution is part of an extensive investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) that has resulted in the indictment of 14 defendants on heroin trafficking and money laundering charges. OCDETF is a joint federal, state and local cooperative approach to combat drug trafficking and is the nation’s primary tool for disrupting and dismantling major drug trafficking organizations, targeting national and regional level drug trafficking organizations and coordinating the necessary law enforcement entities and resources to disrupt or dismantle the targeted criminal organization and seize their assets.

Other conspirators charged to date day in connection with this investigation are:

• Benjamin Villanueva Estrada – Pleaded guilty in 2014 to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute heroin and was sentenced in September 2014 to 78 months in prison and 2 years of supervised release.
• Carlos Lopez-Hernandez – Pleaded guilty to one count of misprision of a felony and re-entry by an illegal alien and was sentenced in January 2015 to 36 months in prison followed by one year of supervised release.
• Marcelino Rivera Vorquez – pleaded guilty in March 2014 to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute heroin and is pending sentencing.
• Fernando Hernandez – operated a heroin transportation group in Los Angeles and pleaded guilty in April 2014 to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute heroin and is pending sentencing.
• Yolanda Gonzalez – operated a heroin transportation group in Los Angeles and was convicted by jury in July 2014 of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute heroin and money laundering conspiracy and is pending sentencing.
• Lorenzo Gonzalez – Pleaded guilty in February 2015 to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute heroin and money laundering conspiracy and is pending sentencing.
• Steven Gonzalez - Pleaded guilty in January 2015 to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute heroin and money laundering conspiracy and is pending sentencing.
• Rigoberto Gonzalez– Pleaded guilty in February 2015 to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute heroin and money laundering conspiracy and is pending sentencing.
• Mahoud Barnabe Salame –Pleaded guilty in February 2015 to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute heroin and is pending sentencing.
• Jose Ivan Hernandez – Charged with conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute at heroin and money laundering conspiracy and is currently awaiting trial.
• Jesus Viera – Has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute heroin.
• Gloria Isabell Ruiz-Pena Pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute heroin and is pending sentencing.
• Alberto Gasca - Arranged the transportation of heroin from Los Angeles and has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute heroin. He is currently pending sentencing.
• Erik Estrada-Lopez- Has agreed to plead guilty to possession with intent to distribute heroin. A plea hearing date has not been set yet.

Gastelo has been in federal custody since April 2013. He will be transferred to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility. All federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.

The case was investigated by DEA in Charlotte, CMPD, and PPD. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Greene of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte.



Updated March 19, 2015