Detroit, Michigan - A Texas woman was sentenced 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 Indian and Asian descent.  Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono of the FBI’s Detroit Field office made the announcement.

Chaka Castro, 44, of Houston, Texas, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Laurie J. Michelson of the Eastern District of Michigan, who presided over the trial.  After a five-week trial, Castro was convicted 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.  The leader of the robbery crews was Castro, who 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.  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.

The FBI’s Ann Arbor Office investigated the case with the assistance of federal agencies including U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Secret Service and local law enforcement agencies in Michigan, including Washtenaw County Sherriff’s Office, Ann Arbor Police Department and Canton Police Department; local law enforcement agencies in Ohio, including Beachwood Police Department; local law enforcement agencies in Georgia, including the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office, Cobb County Police Department, Gwinnett County Police Department, Duluth Police Department and Milton Police Department; local law enforcement agencies in New York, including Nassau County Police Department; the Tennessee Highway Patrol and local law enforcement agencies in Texas including Allen Police Department, Coppell Police Department, Flower Mound Police Department, Carrollton Police Department, Lewisville Police Department and Southlake Police Department.

Trial Attorneys Marianne Shelvey and Beth Lipman of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section prosecuted the case.