Man convicted for role in multi-state drug ring

Nov. 20—PITTSBURGH — A federal grand jury found a man guilty of drug conspiracy charges stemming from a multi-state trafficking organization led by a former New Castle resident.

Norberto Castillo-Lopez was found guilty of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, U.S. Attorney Eric G. Olshan announced Friday. The jury deliberated for less than an hour in the case.

Castillo-Lopez, 34, of Columbus, Ohio, was tried before United States District Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan in Pittsburgh.

The three-day trial showed a Drug Enforcement Agency wiretap found a kilogram-quantity drug trafficking ring was bringing cocaine from Columbus to western Pennsylvania. The kingpin of the drug ring — which operated in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico — was Bruce McKnight, formerly of New Castle, who pled guilty last year to violating federal narcotics laws.

Castillo-Lopez was intercepted agreeing to supply kilograms of cocaine to his coconspirator who redistributed that cocaine to lower-level distributors for resale in New Castle and Farrell. In September 2020, investigators executed a search warrant at Castillo-Lopez's residence and recovered cocaine, bulk U.S. currency, and a kilogram wrapper.

Assistant U. S. Attorneys Mark V. Gurzo and Katherine C. Jordan prosecuted this case on behalf of the government. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 15.

Castillo-Lopez faces a total sentence of not less than 10 years to a maximum of life imprisonment, a fine not to exceed $10 million, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant. Castillo-Lopez remains in custody pending sentencing.

This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces investigation. Other agencies that assisted included the New Castle Police Department, Lawrence County Drug Task Force, DEA, Homeland Security, the Postal Service and Office of the Attorney General.