For Immediate Release
August 26, 2010
Dennis K. Burke, United States Attorney
Contacts: Wyn Hornbuckle, Public Affairs
PHOENIX — Juan Victor Munoz, 30, Sixto Alonzo Castro, 26, Modesto Castro, 28 all of Phoenix, Ariz.; and Bobby Joe Pierce, 31 of Modesto, California, were sentenced on Tuesday by U.S. District Court Judge Frederick J. Martone for charges related to their role as a “rip crew”in a drug conspiracy. The court sentenced Munoz, the leader of the crew, to 15 years in prison. Munoz has prior felony convictions which include a conviction for attempted burglary, escape and a drug trafficking offense.
“Four extremely dangerous criminals have been removed from the Phoenix community for a long time,” said U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke. “This successful outcome is due to the outstanding collaboration and commitment of my federal prosecutors, the ATF and the Phoenix Police Department to make Phoenix safer by targeting criminals involved in the violent drug trade.”
After a jury trial held April 27 to May 5, 2010, a jury found Munoz guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine; possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense (aid and abet); and felon in possession of a firearm.
Sixto Alonzo Castro, Modesto Castro and Bobby Joe Pierce previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. The court sentenced Sixto Alonzo Castro, a convicted felon, to seven years in prison and five years of supervised release. Modesto Castro, a convicted felon, was sentenced to five years and10 months in prison and five years of supervised release. Finally, Bobby Joe Pierce, also a convicted felon, was sentenced to five years in prison and five years of supervised release.
“During the summer of 2009 ATF partnered with the Phoenix Police Department to proactively confront the violent criminal crews operating in the metro area,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge William D. Newell. “ATF’s primary mission is to reduce violent crime and we are successful due to our long-standing partnerships with our state and local law enforcement peers. The sentencing in this case is evidence that these joint efforts are the most effective.”
In May 2009, agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives conducted a sting operation, dubbed “Operation Gideon”, in an effort to address violent crimes, including home invasions robberies, drug trafficking, and firearms trafficking. On May 29, 2009, Munoz, a prohibited possessor, sold a firearm with a partially obliterated serial number, to an undercover ATF agent. On June 8, 2009, Munoz met with the same undercover agent and sold him approximately one ounce of crack cocaine. During that meeting, undercover ATF agents presented an opportunity for Munoz to steal four kilograms of cocaine from an armed drug courier. Munoz agreed to steal the cocaine and said he had four men who would help him. On June 10, 2009, Munoz, this time bringing Sixto Alonzo Castro and Bobby Joe Pierce, met with the same undercover ATF agents again to discuss the robbery of the cocaine. On June 11, 2009, Munoz, Sixto Alonzo Castro, Modesto Castro, and Bobby Joe Pierce, met the undercover agents at the agreed upon location for the drug rip-off. The crew brought three loaded guns and ski-masks to the meeting in the rear parking lot of a Costco in west Phoenix, where they were immediately arrested.
“Operation Gideon” involved the deployment of some of ATF’s most experienced undercover operatives to team with local agents and police investigators by conducting sting investigations involving violent home invasion crews. Phoenix was selected as the launch site for “Operation Gideon” to address violent crimes, including home invasion robberies and kidnappings. Operation Gideon yielded 70 arrests, the seizure of approximately $39,000 dollars, several firearms along with ballistic vests, plastic restraints, duct tape, gloves and ski masks. Operation Gideon began in May 2009 and ran for 120 days.
The investigation of this case was conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The prosecution was handled by Sabrina D. DeCosta, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, and Raymond K. Woo, Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, Phoenix.