Appeal halts release of just-arrested, thrice-deported TL drug trafficker
A federal judge’s bid to free a thrice-deported Mexican national – arrested again this month on suspicion of trafficking large quantities of drugs to the Tenderloin – was stalled today after a last ditch appeal by prosecutors.
The urgent appeal was prompted by U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim’s order to release Yobani Aminadab Gallardo Castro before trial on a $50,000 bond on condition he reside in a halfway house in the Tenderloin.
The defendant was arrested on June 1 after a year-long Drug Enforcement Administration investigation into suppliers of illegal drugs in San Francisco.
DEA Agents identified Gallardo Castro, 28, as the man behind the aliases “Yuca Noche” and “Sinaloa” – who, intercepted telephone conversations revealed, was involved in the large-scale movement of drugs into the Bay Area and distribution to street-level drug dealers.
The court was told that the defendant’s phone contained photographs of a machine gun, cash, and large quantities of cocaine, fentanyl and heroin.
Prosecutors also say that Gallardo Castro has used assumed identities to send tens of thousands of dollars overseas via money-services businesses. In this way, they claim, the defendant has laundered some of his drug proceeds.
They point out that his unsecured $50,000 bond will be signed by the defendant’s brother’s girlfriend who they describe as “either an unwitting pawn” or “a willing participant” in his criminal activities.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Parker, pressing the court to detain him in a motion, observed that Gallardo Castro is a Mexican national in the country unlawfully and who has been deported from the USA “at least” three times.
“[T]here is a substantial risk that the defendant will refuse to abide by any court-ordered conditions of release and flee.”
The Government also took the view that Gallardo Castro is a “danger to the community” who is “transporting large quantities of narcotics from Mexico and/or Southern California to the Bay Area.”
Defense attorney Brian Berson told the court in answer that his client’s criminal history is minimal, with no violent offenses listed on his rap sheet.
Calling the accusations of money laundering “questionable, at best” Berson added that the images of drugs found on Gallardo Castro’s phone could be downloaded by anyone on the internet.
He also noted that the actual quantity of narcotics found on his client when he was arrested – 140 grams of base cocaine – is “hardly cartel quantity”.
This evening U.S. District Judge Edward Davila, sitting as the duty judge for the Northern District of California, granted the Government’s motion to revoke the release order of the magistrate.
Finding that Gallardo Castro is a flight risk, Judge Davila’s order noted that he had lied to pretrial services officials about whether he had children in Mexico. This, Davila wrote, was suggestive of someone willing to mislead the Court for his own purposes.
The judge also described how the defendant, instead of giving an accurate residence address, gave the address of a money services business where his girlfriend works. He also took note of his close ties to Mexico.
“There are no conditions of supervised release that can reasonably assure the safety of the community or adequately mitigate the high flight risk,” he concluded.
The extensive lengths to which prosecutors have been required to go to keep a trafficker such as Gallardo Castro in custody – even in circumstances which might seem to present strong grounds for detention – illustrates the uphill struggle faced by those trying to address drug dealing and violence in San Francisco.
It comes on the day Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi announced that the U.S. Department of Justice has approved an “Operation Overdrive” designation for San Francisco, which she says “will unlock new federal resources to combat the city’s fentanyl trafficking epidemic.”
Gallardo Castro currently faces one count of cocaine possession. He will next appear in court on June 30 at San Francisco federal courthouse.
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