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Justice News

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

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bellingham Woman Sentenced to 9 Years in Prison for Meth and Heroin Distribution

Repeat Offender Was Both Drug Buyer And Supplier

            A 37-year-old Bellingham woman who was a key player in a Whatcom County drug distribution ring was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to nine years in prison and four years of supervised release for Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.  ROSIE CASTANEDA was arrested in December 2011, following a lengthy investigation of a drug trafficking organization that distributed methamphetamine and heroin throughout Whatcom County.  CASTANEDA was at once a supplier, a customer and a distributor of drugs for a criminal group headed by co-defendant Todd Hamilton.  CASTANEDA pleaded guilty in March 2012.  At sentencing U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour noted CASTANEDA’s extensive criminal history and her “lack of remorse” as indicated on recorded telephone calls she made from the Federal Detention Center.

            “This criminal organization prospered by poisoning the communities of Whatcom County,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.  “My thanks to the leaders of local law enforcement in Bellingham and Whatcom County who worked closely with federal law enforcement partners on this prosecution.  They truly make a difference for our community.”

            According to records filed in the case, CASTANEDA was responsible for distributing both heroin and meth, and had been involved in using and distributing drugs in the Bellingham area for 20 years.  CASTANEDA has a lengthy criminal history and was on Department of Corrections supervision for earlier convictions when she was arrested in this case.  CASTANEDA used male friends and boyfriends to threaten others and to make sure she got paid for the drugs she sold them.

            In asking for a lengthy prison sentence, prosecutors told the court that CASTANEDA was part of “a core group of criminals (which) was singlehandedly running the heroin and methamphetamine trade in Whatcom County.  Defendant was one of those criminals whose name constantly resurfaced as a large part of the problem.  Her sale of methamphetamine and heroin, while on DOC supervision, to numerous addicts in the Bellingham area only further destroyed the lives of those addicts and their families.”

            Hamilton pleaded guilty in April and is scheduled for sentencing July 9, 2013.

            This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved, and was investigated and prosecuted pursuant to the United States Attorney’s Northwest Washington Hot Spot Initiative.  The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Washington State Patrol, Washington State Department of Corrections, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), and the Northwest Regional Drug Task Force.  In addition, the Bellingham Police Department, Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, and multitude of other local jurisdictions provided support, resources, and officers to assist in this year-long investigation.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jill Otake and Roger Rogoff.

Updated March 23, 2015