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11 alleged members of Dominican Republic heroin smuggling ring charged

PHILADELPHIA – Eleven people were charged in a second superseding indictment unsealed March 14, in a conspiracy that involved secreting packets of heroin inside the body, in order to smuggle the drugs into the United States from the Dominican Republic. Also, as a result of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) probe, all 11 face drug and kidnapping charges.

The indictment names Higinio Castillo and Michael Nunez-Rodriguez as the alleged leaders of the Castillo Drug Smuggling Organization (CDSO). Members of the CDSO acted as couriers and recruited other individuals to act as couriers smuggling the drugs inside their bodies or in luggage. The CDSO paid the couriers' travel expenses, helped them obtain U.S. passports, and drove them to and from the U.S. airports. The indictment alleges that the CDSO operated in Philadelphia from November 2010 through March 2012 smuggling at least six kilograms of heroin into the United States during that time period.

Charged with Castillo and Nunez-Rodriguez are: Philip Osley, Yeltsin Genao, Kelvin Perez, Adrian DeJesus, Tommy Figueroa, Argenes Peralta, Carlos Ruben Cotto-Leon, Dilcy Herminia Almanzar and Jiliana Urena, all of Philadelphia. The charges were announced by United States Attorney Zane David Memeger.

The CDSO allegedly enforced its hold on couriers and prevented theft of its product through threats and intimidation. The indictment alleges that on Aug. 24, 2011, Nunez-Rodriguez, Genao and Perez drove from Camden, N.J., to Philadelphia to locate "S.R.,"a person believed to have stolen the heroin that was tasked with smuggling. The defendants drove S.R. to a house on 19th Street in Philadelphia where Castillo and DeJesus were waiting. The five conspirators interrogated S.R. by binding his hands and feet, making threats on his life, and discharging a firearm at close range. S.R. was eventually released with no serious physical injury. The indictment further alleges that on Sept. 5, 2011, defendants Nunez-Rodriguez and Figueroa went to the homes of courier "C.D." after C.D. did not appear at the airport the previous night as expected. Figueroa pointed a gun at the person who answered the door and forced his way into the home to search for C.D. The defendants left after not finding C.D.

According to the indictment, the couriers traveled to and from the Dominican Republic on commercial flights that landed at Philadelphia International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and JFK International Airport.

DeJesus was taken in to custody March 13, 2013; Castillo, Nunez-Rodriguez, Genao, Perez have been in custody since their arrests on a criminal complaint in March 2012; Osley was arrested in August 2012; Figueroa, Urena and Cotto-Leon were arrested in December 2012; Peralta was arrested in February 2013; and Almanzar was arrested in January 2013.

If convicted of all charges, each defendant faces 10 years to life in prison and five years to a lifetime of supervised release, possible fines, and mandatory special assessments. The government is also seeking forfeiture of all assets derived from any criminal activity.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, (CBP), the Philadelphia Police Department, Pennsylvania State Police, and the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office assisted in the investigation.