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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Mexican drug kingpin, Carlos Ramon Castro-Rocha, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge David C. Keesler today and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Castro-Rocha, a/k/a “Cuate,” 40, of Sinaloa, Mexico, was the head of a Mexican drug trafficking organization (DTO) responsible for producing and distributing into the United States vast quantities of heroin between 2005 and 2008.
Harry S. Sommers, Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which oversees the Charlotte District Office and Chief Rodney D. Monroe of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD), join U.S. Attorney Tompkins in making today’s announcement.
According to court documents and court proceeds, as the DTO’s leader, Castro-Rocha ran an extensive drug trafficking network and oversaw all aspects of the drug operation, from production in Mexico to distribution in cities throughout the U.S. The Department of Justice designated Castro-Roca as a Consolidated Priority Organization Target, or “CPOT,” a designation reserved for command and control level drug traffickers, who run organizations that smuggle large quantities of narcotics into the United States.
Castro-Rocha was first charged by the U.S. government via a criminal complaint filed in the Western District of North Carolina in January 2009. He was formally indicted in this district on federal drug trafficking charges in June 2009. The indictment remained sealed until Castro-Rocha was arrested by Mexican authorities on May 30, 2010, pursuant to extradition proceedings initiated the U.S. Department of Justice. Following Castro-Rocha’s several unsuccessful appeals in the Mexican judicial system, his final extradition order to the United States was granted in October 2012, and Castro-Rocha arrived in the U.S. later that month. In addition to the charges against him in Western North Carolina, Castro-Rocha faces separate federal drug trafficking and related charges in the District of Arizona.
U.S. Attorney Tompkins stated, “Castro-Rocha’s guilty plea speaks of our determination to dismantle organized drug networks and take down their bosses, no matter how long it takes. Drug kingpins hiding in foreign countries think they are beyond our reach, either too powerful to go after or too well-hidden to find. But as this case shows, we will take the fight abroad and overcome all hurdles, until those responsible for flooding our streets with drugs face the American justice system.”
“DEA and its law enforcement partners delivered a major assault against a well-established Mexican DTO group which was led by Carlos Ramon Castro-Rocha. This Mexican-based DTO was a pipeline for black tar heroin and other dangerous drugs being shipped from Mexico to our country. Because of the dedication and hard work of all law enforcement agencies involved, Castro-Rocha and those he led will no longer distribute the destructive and deadly substances that wreak havoc in our neighborhoods,” stated Harry S. Sommers, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division.
“The outcome of this case will have a significant impact on the distribution of illegal drugs across our nation and within the City of Charlotte,” said Chief Rodney Monroe, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. “Dismantling a drug ring of this magnitude only could have been accomplished through the cooperation of all partner agencies involved. Our message is clear: illegal drug trafficking will not be tolerated or condoned in our community.”
Castro-Rocha’s guilty plea stems from “Operation Dirty Girl II,” which is the local portion of a national anti-drug initiative, “Project Deliverance,” aimed at stemming the flow of illegal narcotics into the U.S. Led by the DEA and other members of the Western District’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), Dirty Girl II focused on disrupting and dismantling the infrastructure of Castro-Rocha’s drug trafficking network, which was responsible for producing and smuggling in the U.S. vast quantities of heroin, including a highly dangerous form, black tar heroin. “Dirty Girl” is the street name for black tar heroin.
Filed court documents indicate that Castro-Rocha’s drug organization produced the heroin in Mexico, smuggled it across the border and distributed it throughout the United States, including the Charlotte area. According to court records, in September 2007, law enforcement in Charlotte seized more than two and a half kilograms (approx. six pounds) of black tar heroin that had been trafficked to Charlotte through Castro-Rocha’s drug distribution network. More than $110,000 in cash and a handgun were also seized. Court records indicate that in August 2008, law enforcement made two additional seizures of approximately one kilogram of black tar heroin. According to court records, between 2005 and 2008, Castro-Rocha’s network trafficked up to ten kilograms of black tar heroin in the Charlotte area alone, with an approximate street value of $1.2 million.
In addition to the organization’s leader, a total of 11 defendants associated with Castro-Rocha’s DTO have been prosecuted in Western North Carolina.
Castro-Rocha pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to import heroin and one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin in Charlotte and elsewhere. He faces a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison, and a $10,000,000 fine. A sentencing date has not been set yet. Following Castro-Rocha’s sentencing in this district, he will be transferred to Arizona to face the federal drug charges pending against him there.
In making today’s announcement U.S. Attorney Tompkins praised the DEA agents and CMPD officers who worked tirelessly to build a successful case against Castro-Roca. She also thanked the FBI, the Gastonia Police Department and the Union County Sheriff’s Office for their invaluable assistance and commended Assistant United States Attorney Steven R. Kaufman of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte for his prosecution of the case.