News Release
June 10, 2010
Contact: Special Agent Ramona Sanchez
Number: 602 664-5725

High Priority Target Indicted for Heroin Trafficking,
Arrested in Mexico

  Operation Black Pearl targeted importation and trafficking of Mexican black-tar heroin by the Castro-Rocha DTO

25lbs of heroin.
25lbs of heroin.

JUN 10 - PHOENIX –  A six count indictment was unsealed this week charging Carlos Ramon Castro-Rocha, aka “Cuate”, 36, of Guasave, Sinaloa, Mexico for violations of drug trafficking and importation laws.  Castro-Rocha was arrested in Mexico on May 30.

Arrested during the course of Project Deliverance, a nationwide drug enforcement action announced early today by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in Washington, Castro-Rocha has been designated a Consolidated Priority Organization Target (CPOT).  A CPOT designation is reserved for command and control level drug traffickers and money launderers believed responsible for the importation of large quantities of narcotics into the United States. 

“The arrest in Mexico of Carlos Ramon Castro-Rocha aka “Cuate”, the head of a large-scale heroin production and trafficking organization, is the result of the resolute partnership between DEA and Mexican law enforcement, said DEA Special Agent in Charge Elizabeth W. Kempshall “In Arizona and across the United States, we have disrupted the organization’s domestic operation.  DEA and our partners are determined to find them, shut down their operations, and bring them to justice.”       

The indictment alleges that between January and April 2009, Castro-Rocha conspired with others to import heroin into the United States from Mexico and distribute the heroin to other locations in the United States.  Castro-Rocha utilized individuals in the Phoenix area who worked as cell heads, transportation coordinators, stash house operators, and drug load couriers to import heroin into the United States to Phoenix, where it was packaged for distribution.  The Castro-Rocha Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO) used vehicles with hidden compartments to transport the heroin to locations outside the Phoenix area.  Over 45 pounds of black-tar heroin, directly attributable to Castro-Rocha, was seized as part of Operation Black Pearl.  This amount of heroin equates to approximately 87,088 dosage units with an approximate Phoenix street value of $2.2 million.

“Castro-Rocha was a major target, believed responsible for importing vast quantities of black-tar heroin into this country, a drug that is a growing and a lethal problem in American communities,” said U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke. “This takes ‘Cuate’ out of the equation, and we look forward to prosecuting him here in Arizona.  This is also another example of our deepening cooperation with the Republic of Mexico, a vital alliance in this battle against the cartels.”

Castro-Rocha was indicted in November 2009.  On May 30, 2010, Castro-Rocha was arrested by Mexican authorities based upon a request by the United States.  Castro-Rocha is pending extradition to the United States at this time.  He will face charges in the District of Arizona and the Western District of North Carolina.

A conviction for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin and import heroin into the United States carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, a $4,000,000 fine or both.  In determining an actual sentence, Judge Murguia  will consult the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide appropriate sentencing ranges.  The judge, however, is not bound by those guidelines in determining a sentence.

Also part of Project Deliverance, two individuals in Arizona and California state custody on other charges - Irene Valenzuela-Moreno, 56, of San Luis, Ariz. and Rafael Ochoa, 47, of Ontario, Calif. - were served with federal warrants Wednesday from an Arizona indictment charging them and five others with conspiracy to import methamphetamine.  The seven were indicted by a federal grand jury on multiple narcotics trafficking charges related to their roles in a Yuma-based methamphetamine importation and distribution cell, as well as money laundering charges.  The organization is believed to have moved large quantities of methamphetamine across the Arizona-Mexico border and onward to destinations in the U.S.  Six pounds of meth were seized during the investigation.  Warrants have been issued for the five remaining fugitives.

An indictment is simply the method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt.  An individual is presumed innocent until competent evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The investigation into the Castro-Rocha DTO preceding the indictment was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Phoenix Police Department, Mesa Police Department, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, Navajo County Sheriff’s Office, Arizona Department of Public Safety, and the Wickenburg Police Department.  The prosecution is being handled by Jonell L. Lucca, Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, Phoenix. 

The prosecution of Valenzuela-Moreno and Ochoa is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane McLaughlin.  The investigation was conducted by the DEA.

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