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Justice News

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

Thursday, July 6, 2017

California Man Charged in Central Wisconsin Methamphetamine Conspiracy

MADISON, WIS. – Jeffrey M. Anderson, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced today the unsealing of an indictment returned on May 11 by a grand jury sitting in Madison, which charges Marcos Castaneda, 37, of Pomona, California, with conspiring to distribute methamphetamine. The indictment alleges that the conspiracy involved more than 500 grams of methamphetamine. Local law enforcement authorities, along with the FBI, arrested Castaneda in California on May 19, 2017. Castaneda made his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Madison on June 21, 2017. He is being detained in custody pending trial, which is set for December 11, 2017.


With this indictment, 20 people have now been charged as participants in this conspiracy which involved the trafficking of pure methamphetamine (also known as “Ice” or “crystal meth”). The methamphetamine came from the Pomona, Calif. area. It was then transported by drivers using rental cars to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. From there, the methamphetamine was distributed by an organized network of drug wholesalers and retailers in central Wisconsin. The methamphetamine was sold in Wisconsin communities, both large and small, including Wausau, Merrill, Medford, Abbotsford, Owen, Athens, Eau Claire, and Osseo. The marketing plan of the organization was to flood these communities with inexpensive, pure, and plentiful methamphetamine, in an effort to create more addicts, and therefore more customers.


The conspiracy operated from June 2013 to May 2016. During this time, methamphetamine was brought into Wisconsin from Minnesota on a weekly basis, averaging one pound per week. Demand exploded in late 2015 and early 2016, and the trafficking increased to two to three pounds per week. In all, over 58 kilograms (or 127 pounds) of methamphetamine were distributed by the members of this conspiracy. The methamphetamine had a street value of over $5.7 million dollars.


To date, 19 people have pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Madison to conspiring to distribute methamphetamine. All have been sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson. The sentences imposed against these 19 defendants total over 200 years in federal prison. Most recently, Christina Abbott and Daniel Graap were sentenced on June 30, 2017, by Judge Peterson. Abbott received a sentence of 66 months in prison. Graap received a sentence of 120 months in prison.

In imposing Abbott’s sentence, Judge Peterson told Abbott that while she held a smaller role in the conspiracy, her conduct was fueled by her own drug addiction, which she has been unable to control, and has now resulted in her fourth felony drug conviction. This makes her a dangerous person because she her took advantage of other people’s addiction to methamphetamine to sell drugs, make money, and fuel her own drug habit. The judge urged Abbott to take responsibility for her recovery, and realize that her conduct has consequences.


In imposing sentence on Graap, the judge told Graap he played a significant role in the conspiracy, noting: “you engaged in extremely dangerous and damaging activity that harmed your community . . . You did more than sell drugs. You facilitated others in this crime. You bought from your own son, and you took other people down with you.”


The following list of defendants charged in this conspiracy provides the dates of sentencing and sentences imposed:

  1. Karen Zais, 49, Merrill, sentenced November 29, 2016 to 6 years;

  2. Andy Nelson, 32, Merrill, sentenced December 7, 2016 to 4.5 years;

  3. Jacob Loose, 25, Wausau, sentenced January 9 to 15 years;

  4. Paul Rasmussen, 35, Osseo, sentenced January 10 to 15 years;

  5. Matt Drake, 26, Merrill, sentenced February 8 to 12 years;

  6. Chris Schmeltzer, 46, Merrill, sentenced February 9 to 6 years;

  7. Ryan Thomas, 24, Wausau, sentenced February 9 to 12.5 years;

  8. Jamie Pankow, 33, Wausau, sentenced February 10 to 7 years;

  9. David Vance-Bryan, 30, St. Paul, Minn., sentenced February 16 to 11.5 years;

  10. David Brandenburg, 26, sentenced February 24 to 9 years;

  11. Joe Kujawa, 37, Oakdale, Minn., sentenced March 3 to 18 years;

  12. Kyle Quintana, 24, Wausau, sentenced March 6 to 13 years;

  13. Anthony Rogers, 24, Athens, sentenced March 7 to 13.5 years;

  14. Pat Keenan, 30, Wausau, sentenced March 8 to 15 years;

  15. Jonas Ellwart, 24, Wausau, sentenced April 12 to 10 years;

  16. Josh Graap, 32, Merrill, sentenced April 12 to 6 years; and

  17. Mike Kjonaas, 41, St. Paul, sentenced April 27 to 11 years.


The charges against these defendants are the result of an investigation conducted by the Wausau office of the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation; the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office; the Wausau office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Marathon County Sheriff’s Department, Special Investigations Unit; the Wausau Police Department; and IRS Criminal Investigation. The prosecution of this case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Graber.


Drug Trafficking
Updated July 10, 2017