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Drug trafficker given prison sentence
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The last member of a Turlock drug ring that was responsible for distributing large amounts of crystal methamphetamine in the area was sentenced to federal prison Friday.

Noel Castillo, 38, of Turlock was sentenced to five years in prison, followed by five years of supervised release, the U.S. Department of Justice reported.

Castillo was convicted in federal court of conspiring to distribute crystal methamphetamine and possession of crystal methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.

Castillo was the last member of a four-person drug ring that was distributing narcotics in Stanislaus and Merced counties.

The investigation, led by the Stanislaus Drug Enforcement Agency and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, began in October 2008 with a tip to law enforcement about a possible drug ring operating out of two counties. In February 2009, Castillo was identified as a drug trafficker through a federal wiretap of a phone used by Raymond Mendosa, 44, of Turlock.

Law enforcement officers received information that Mendosa stashed methamphetamine in rural road ditches and edges of cornfields at night and then retrieved the drug the next day for distribution in the Stanislaus and Merced County areas.

As a result of the investigation, Mendosa, along with Castillo and his wife, Denice Marie Hector, 35, and Alfredo Ayala, aka “Pollo,” 33, all of Turlock, were indicted and convicted in federal court in Fresno.

Mendosa was sentenced to 14 years, and Ayala was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for conspiring to distribute crystal methamphetamine. Hector was sentenced to two years probation for lying to DEA agents about the contents of a safe deposit box containing $199,832 in drug proceeds.

In addition to the arrests, agents seized more than 11 pounds of crystal methamphetamine, 14 firearms, and a hand grenade. They also seized approximately $627,839 in cash.

Three additional defendants were charged in related federal cases in Sacramento and seven defendants were charged at the state level. In the related federal cases, Sheldon Linhares, 32, was sentenced to 12 years in prison; Chad Correia, 38, was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison; and Cecilia O’Day, 40, was sentenced to seven and half years in prison in a conspiracy to traffic crystal methamphetamine to the island of Kauai in Hawaii.

This case is the product of the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation by the DEA and the Stanislaus Drug Enforcement Agency, with assistance from the Central Valley California High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force, and the California Multi-Jurisdictional Methamphetamine Enforcement Team.

OCDETF is a focused interagency program investigating and prosecuting the most significant drug trafficking organizations throughout the United States by leveraging the combined expertise of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Karen Escobar, Richard Bender, and Michele Beckwith prosecuted the federal criminal cases and Assistant U.S. Attorney Alyson Berg handled civil forfeiture proceedings.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.