Crime and Justice

3 charged in aftermath of Springfield drug raid; operation praised by officials

A state police trooper directs traffic Wednesday morning around Valley Street in Springfield. Photo by Ethan Weinstein/VTDigger.

Updated at 6:03 p.m.

Three people are facing federal charges that they conspired to distribute crack cocaine and fentanyl following Wednesday’s early morning raids in a downtown Springfield neighborhood plagued by recent shootings, according to charging documents filed in federal court Thursday.

Federal authorities allege that Jonathan “Jose” Castro, Anibal “Papi” Castro Sr. and Derek Arie conspired with two other people — whose names are redacted from the filing — to distribute crack cocaine and fentanyl in Vermont between March and November.

All three people named in Thursday’s court documents have previously been charged with drug-related offenses.

In a press release about the charges, U.S. Attorney Nikolas P. Kerest praised the “investigatory and collaborative efforts” of the local, state and federal agencies involved in the raids on Valley Street.

Jeff Mobus, the Springfield town manager, also praised them for their help “in addressing drug-related crime and violent crime,” which he said have increasingly afflicted the town

“These situations are often larger than the local police can effectively address,” Mobus told VTDigger. “Joint efforts such as what occurred yesterday are a strong step towards addressing these types of crime.”

Gov. Phil Scott issued a similar statement on Thursday.

“Operations like this disrupt the supply of deadly and addictive drugs, take illegal guns off the street, and hold drug dealers accountable for poisoning Vermonters for profit,” Scott said. “They also create an opportunity to help those suffering from addiction get back on the right path through our social service systems.”

The original indictment does not state where in Vermont the men were allegedly distributing the illegal drugs, though all three have known ties to Springfield. It was also not clear whether drugs were seized during the raids.

Vermont’s online locator for incarcerated individuals showed Jonathan Castro and Anibal Castro Sr. were in custody Thursday at the Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans, having been booked into the facility Wednesday. There is no listing for Arie.  

A motion to hold Castro Sr. in custody filed by federal prosecutors on Thursday alleged that he had distributed drugs on Valley Street in Springfield and elsewhere. Court documents specify that Castro was arrested in the Springfield Hospital parking lot on Wednesday.

According to the motion, data from Castro’s son’s cellphone — Anibal Castro Jr. — “contained multiple images and videos of Castro Sr. holding various firearms.” Prosecutors also indicated that “law enforcement continues to investigate certain items possessed by the defendant at the time of his arrest.”  

Castro Sr.’s arrest is described in an affidavit submitted in a separate case. In that incident, FBI Special Agent Colin Simons described arresting Martine Protas and Castro Sr. on Wednesday in the parking lot of the hospital as the two appeared to smoke crack cocaine in a car.

“Law enforcement was conducting surveillance in the area, specifically, investigators were looking for Anibal Castro Sr.,” Simons wrote in the affidavit.

Protas is charged with knowingly possessing a firearm while being an unlawful user of and addicted to a controlled substance after law enforcement found her with a 6.3 mm semiautomatic pistol, according to the affidavit.

In May, Vermont State Police and Springfield Police executed a search warrant at 77 Valley Street looking for Anibal Castro Sr., who, according to an affidavit, had allegedly “fired shots at a male subject in relation to a potential drug related dispute” in which the victim was not hit by the bullets. That work led to the arrest of Castro Jr. — Castro Sr.’s son — after police discovered a pipe bomb in his bedroom.

Prosecutors on Thursday also filed a motion to hold Jonathan Castro in custody while his case is pending, citing evidence that he sold illegal drugs to confidential informants on several occasions, directed others to sell drugs and collected the proceeds from the transactions.

The conspiracy Jonathan Castro is charged with taking part in had occurred in “Springfield, Vermont, and elsewhere,” according to the filing.

Derek Arie, one of the men named in Thursday’s court filings, was detained by Springfield Police after a Valley Street shooting in June.

He faces a federal charge of cocaine possession with intent to distribute after a June 4 traffic stop in Springfield, according to an affidavit written by Colin Simons, an FBI special agent. According to Simons’ statement, a safe in Arie’s possession during the stop was later found to contain 44 grams of cocaine. 

At the time, Arie was on pretrial release for felony charges including fentanyl trafficking and methamphetamine possession.

A motion for detention on Arie’s federal charges filed by prosecutors in September indicates that on June 16, Springfield police detained Arie “after police responded to reports of shots fired on Valley Street.”

Jonathan Castro was arrested Wednesday in Lebanon, New Hampshire, with a search of his apartment there by law enforcement resulting in the seizing of two firearms, cocaine and suspected drug proceeds, according to the motion filed for his detention. According to Lebanon Police, the FBI handled that search.

The filing also stated that Jonathan Castro’s criminal history includes convictions for distribution of heroin and possessing with intent to distribute cocaine from Massachusetts. 

“The prior drug trafficking conviction, separate and apart from the instant indictment, establishes the defendant’s previous involvement in narcotics sales and his danger to the community,” according to the filing. 

In October 2017, Jonathan Castro was arrested during a vehicle stop in Hartford during which police seized 2,300 bags of heroin, according to a release from the Hartford Police Department. At the time of his arrest, Castro’s residence was listed as Springfield, Massachusetts. He was held at Northeast Correctional Complex from October 2017 to May 2018. 

Protas, the woman arrested alongside Castro Sr. and charged with a federal gun offense, was also arrested on Wednesday for two outstanding state warrants — a misdemeanor cocaine possession charge, and felony sale charges for fentanyl and methamphetamine. In both instances, Protas failed to appear for her arraignments this past fall, according to the two signed arrest warrants.

Wednesday’s raid came as law enforcement swarmed Valley Street just before 6 a.m., deploying what neighbors believed to be flash bangs. 

“At first I just heard a really loud bang with a pause of silence, and then two more loud bangs and then yelling and commotion,” Alisyn Pinney, a Valley Street resident, told VTDigger. “When I looked out the window there were big military vehicles, with a lot of police.”

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Alan J. Keays

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