HomeAsian AmericansLeader of home invasion ring targeting Asian households sentenced to 37 years

Leader of home invasion ring targeting Asian households sentenced to 37 years

Chaka Castro led a home invasion operation that targeted Asian homes.

Views from the Edge

A judge sentenced a Texas woman to 37 years in prison for her role as the leader of several robbery crews that traveled across the United States in order to conduct armed home invasions of families of Asian descent. 

A mother of five, Chaka Castro, 44, of Houston, Texas, was sentenced Monday (Oct. 28) by US District Court Judge Laurie J. Michelson of the Eastern District of Michigan, who presided over the trial. After a five-week trial, prosecutors convicted Castro of one count of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) conspiracy, four counts of assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering and four counts of use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.

According to evidence presented at trial, from 2011 to 2014, Castro and her robbery crews committed a string of home invasions in Georgia, New York, Ohio, Michigan and Texas. 

As the leader of the robbery crews, Castro would generate lists of robbery targets in various states around the county, specifically families of Asian and Indian ancestry, and then assign crews to carry out the armed robberies of these families within their homes. 

“Their theory is that Asians and Indians don’t trust financial institutions in America, so they’re more apt to keep money and gold on hand,” said Detective Christopher Bradshaw of the Milton, Ga., police department,

Once Castro assigned a crew to a particular area, members of the group would travel to that location, conduct surveillance and execute the robberies. 

The crews utilized a particular modus operandi in each of the robberies. They disguised their appearance with clothing and bandanas so that victims of their robberies would have difficulty identifying them. 

They would openly carry and brandish firearms to gain control of the victims and then immediately corral the victims, including children, into one location in the home. At least one robber would then restrain the victims with duct tape and threats of violence, as another partner would ransack the home in search of cash, jewelry and electronics to steal. The group organized their trips to involve multiple home invasion robberies over a series of days.

According to news reports, in April 2015 six people, who had roles in five home-invasion robberies targeting Indian American families in New Jersey were indicted by a Middlesex County grand jury. Among those arrested was Castro, who was going b the name Catinan Dennings.

In an investigative report about the national home invasion ring in New Jersey, NJ.com quoted authorities as telling the outlet in December 2014 that it was a sophisticated and brutish employing financial databases, demographic data, pinpoint targets, the element of surprise and, not least, violence and intimidation.

The report that pieced together information from multiple sources and several states, including from investigators and Castro’s former acquaintances, said Castro, who along with five other crews remained jailed in Texas, is a New York native of Colombian descent. She was described as “funny with a natural charisma that attracted people. Castro was also smart and fluent in Spanish and capable of holding a basic conversation in French.

Bradshaw told the paper that Castro had a background in online research and access to financial databases, likely through an old employer. The detective believed that she was a loan officer at one point.

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