Bucks County Inmate Admits Prison Drug Ring
A Philadelphia prison inmate admitted in Bucks County Court yesterday that he had set up cocaine sales from behind bars by using a cellular phone that had been smuggled into a city prison. Criminal defense lawyers of Philadelphia and other surrounding areas paid particular attention to this case for its scope.
Setting Up a Criminal Enterprise
Hector Castillo, 21, an inmate at the Curran-Fromhold prison and a former resident of North Philadelphia, pleaded guilty before Judge Isaac S. Garb to charges of cocaine delivery, possession with intent to deliver, conspiracy, and related counts. An accomplice, William Pena, 31, of Northeast Philadelphia, pleaded guilty to the same charges, admitting he had delivered cocaine twice last summer at Castillo’s direction after the two talked by cell phone — once taking the drugs to a strip mall near Bustleton Avenue and Welsh Road and another time to a hotel in Bensalem.
Garb sentenced Castillo to four to eight years in state prison and fined him $40,000. He sentenced Pena to seven to 14 years in prison and fined him $80,000.
A third member of the ring, Michael Diaz-Kelsey, 37, of Northeast Philadelphia, admitted he helped sell cocaine from behind bars at Curran-Fromhold, pleaded guilty to similar charges on Feb. 3, and agreed to testify against Castillo and Pena, said Senior Deputy District Attorney Gail Marr.
Diaz-Kelsey will be sentenced later to two to four years in Bucks County Prison, Marr said.
Landmark Case for Prison Inmates
“It’s the most brazen drug dealing I’ve ever seen,” Marr said after Castillo and Pena were sentenced. “It’s almost hard to believe they would be able to do that while in jail.”
Marr said that Pena had six previous convictions for drug dealing, and that Castillo was awaiting trial in Philadelphia on charges stemming from three murder cases.
Maureen Brady, of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, confirmed yesterday that Castillo was being held in connection with three murders, but she said she did not have any details of the cases. His criminal defense attorney also declined comment.
A spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office said yesterday that computer problems prevented him from finding any information about the murder charges. In court yesterday, Marr told Garb that the case against the three men began in June, when Bensalem Township police arrested a man on drug charges and he later told them a Curran-Fromhold inmate was dealing drugs. The man then began cooperating with the Bucks County and Philadelphia District Attorney’s Offices and twice ordered cocaine from Diaz-Kelsey by calling him at the prison where Diaz-Kelsey was being held on an assault charge, according to a probable-cause affidavit. The document said Diaz-Kelsey could arrange a cocaine deal outside the prison with the help of fellow inmate Castillo.
Details of the Criminal Operation
Marr said the informant called Diaz-Kelsey at the prison on Castillo’s cell phone, which Diaz-Kelsey sometimes was allowed to use. Diaz-Kelsey then contacted Castillo, who called Pena by cell phone and got him to deliver the drugs and collect the money.
Although cell phones are prohibited in Philadelphia prisons, Castillo told Garb he had obtained such a phone and used it to stay in touch with his family and girlfriend, Carmen Colon, in whose name the phone was registered. Castillo’s attorney, Keith Williams, said later that a family member “somehow” got the cell phone into the prison.
Marr said a $3,700 cell-phone bill that stretched over 60 pages was sent to Castillo at his Emerald Street address. He said that the bill was not paid and that Castillo could not use the phone after that, so he gave it to Diaz-Kelsey and told him to destroy it. Diaz-Kelsey broke the phone into small parts and flushed them down a toilet, Marr said.
He also said authorities, with an authorized wiretap, recorded at least 30 conversations between the three men over a month’s time.
Efforts to reach officials in the office of Philadelphia Corrections Commissioner Thomas J. Costello about the smuggling of the cell phone were unsuccessful yesterday.
“Somebody wasn’t minding the store. Obviously it’s an item of contraband that slipped in,” said Bucks County District Attorney Alan Rubenstein.