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Gang Leader Convicted of Drug Charges

December 01, 2000|RICHARD MAROSI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Santa Ana gang leader was found guilty of federal drug trafficking charges Thursday, capping a two-year investigation that authorities said broke the back of one of Southern California's largest drug distribution networks.

Jose Castellon faces life in prison when sentenced March 19. He was convicted of heroin and cocaine trafficking, and manufacturing methamphetamines. The Castellon-led ring, authorities said, was responsible for making $1 million worth of methamphetamines a month.

The verdict caps a two-year investigation that resulted in 13 other convictions against Alley Boys gang members or associates. Authorities said the gang operated for more than a decade and had expanded to other states.

"Their convictions and incarceration will have a great impact on gang and narcotics activity in our city," said Santa Ana Police Sgt. Raul Luna. "We considered them to be major dealers."

Federal and local authorities said the probe, which ended in late 1998, targeted the upper levels of the gang hierarchy. Using wiretaps, investigators tape-recorded more than 1,000 telephone calls between Castellon and underlings.

The recordings, federal prosecutors said, were the key evidence presented during the one-month trial in Santa Ana. Jurors deliberated less than four hours before returning the guilty verdicts against Castellon and his brother, Javier Ponce Castellon, who also faces a life sentence.

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