A woman from Texas was sentenced to 37 years in prison for leading several robberies that targeted Asian households.
Chaka LeChar Castro, a 44-year-old mother of five, reportedly led groups that traveled across the U.S., conducting armed home invasions of families of Asian descent, reports the New York Times.
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.
Following a five-week trial, she was sentenced on Monday by presiding District Court Judge Laurie J. Michelson of the Eastern District of Michigan. Based on court documents, Castro and her crews conducted a series of home invasions in Georgia, New York, Ohio, Michigan, and Texas from 2011 to 2014.
As the acting leader of the robbers, Castro provides the lists of targets in various states around the country. The list specifically contains addresses of families with Asian and Indian ancestry.
She then assigns the crews to carry out the armed robberies. Following the assignment, group members would travel to that location, conduct surveillance and then commence with the invasion.
“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,” Detective Christopher Bradshaw of the Milton, Ga., police department, said in a statement.
To avoid identification, the robbers wore disguises such as special clothing and bandanas. Brandishing firearms, the groups are able to intimidate their victims and immediately gain control of the situation.
Once all the victims are corralled into one spot in the home, one of the robbers would then restrain the victims with duct tape while threatening them with violence. Meanwhile, the robbing partner would proceed to ransack the home in search of cash, jewelry, expensive gadgets, and other valuables.
Multiple home invasion robberies are usually conducted over a series of days.
Back in April 2015, Castro was among the six people who were indicted by a Middlesex County grand jury for their roles in five home invasion robberies targeting Indian American families in New Jersey. Castro then went by the name Catinan Dennings.
Authorities described the operation as “sophisticated and brutish,” utilizing financial databases and demographic data to pinpoint targets. They were known to use the element of surprise, violence and intimidation.
Castro, a New York native of Colombian descent, was described in earlier reports as “funny with a natural charisma that attracted people.” She was also reportedly smart and fluent in Spanish and capable of holding a basic conversation in French.
Castro is also skilled in online research and had access to financial databases, which she apparently acquired via an old employer as she was believed to be a loan officer before.
Featured Image via New Jersey State Police via Dallas News