Ricardo Castang Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison for Narcotics Trafficking and Fake Sweepstakes Scheme Targeting Elderly Victims
Bridget G. Brennan, New York City’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor, announced today the sentencing of RICARDO CASTANG to 10 years in prison for Attempted Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree.
A long-term investigation into the trafficking of cocaine from Costa Rica ultimately led agents from the DEA’s New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force to uncover a $300,000 fraud scheme that victimized elderly people under the guise of the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes. The Office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.’s Elder Abuse Unit and the Wilton, Connecticut Police Department assisted in the investigation. CASTANG, 36, of Brooklyn, pleaded guilty on September 15, 2017 and was sentenced today in Manhattan Supreme Court to 10 years in prison, followed by five years post-release supervision.
CASTANG was arrested on September 21, 2016, when he arrived at a shoe repair business on Utica Avenue in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, to retrieve packages containing two souvenir bags from Costa Rica with a total of one kilogram of cocaine (over 2 lbs.) concealed inside the linings. The packages had been delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. The investigation revealed that CASTANG had received other packages from Costa Rica since at least December of 2015, and had communicated with co-conspirators about these packages via text messages and through an internet-based messaging application.
After CASTANG’s arrest, an examination of phone and banking records showed that in addition to cocaine trafficking, he and his co-conspirators were engaged in a scheme to defraud victims through false pretenses. Between March 2015 and March 2016, victims were contacted by a caller who claimed to represent Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes. The caller informed the victims that they were sweepstakes winners, but before they could collect their prize they were required to submit payment to RICARDO CASTANG for fees and taxes owed.
During the scheme, CASTANG received checks totaling over $300,000 from more than two dozen victims from 17 states across the country. Victims mailed checks to CASTANG’s home address, at 1490 Lincoln Place, Crown Heights, Brooklyn, as well as to a P.O. Box located at a nearby U.S. Post Office. The victims ranged in age from 51 to 91, with the average age being 78. In some of the larger payments, victims paid $50,000 and $60,000. A Manhattan victim over 80 years of age sent multiple checks totaling nearly $30,000.
CASTANG and his co-conspirators arranged for nearly $480,000 cash to be transferred to Costa Rica over the course of 2 ½ years, including proceeds from narcotics trafficking and the fake sweepstakes scheme. They made 60 bank wire transfers to Costa Rica between December 10, 2014 and September 14, 2016 and 38 MoneyGram and Western Union transfers to Costa Rica between April 20, 2015 and September 14, 2016.
Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan thanked Assistant District Attorneys Eric Yuen and Brian Noel of her office’s Trial Division and Investigative Analyst Brooke Schaeffer, as well as the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. Ms. Brennan commended the work of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force, the New York City Police Department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the New York State Police, and the Wilton, Connecticut Police Department.
The DEA’s New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force is comprised of agents and officers of the DEA, the New York City Police Department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the New York State Police, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, New York National Guard, the New York Department of Taxation and Finance, the Clarkstown Police Department, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Port Washington Police Department and the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. The Strike Force is partially funded by the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), which is a federally funded crime-fighting initiative.
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Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office