Indicted inspector pleads not guilty

Once head of the traffic division, Daniel Castro now faces the possibility of as much as 4 years in prison.
Once head of the traffic division, Daniel Castro now faces the possibility of as much as 4 years in prison.

Court frees him from house arrest

Posted: November 09, 2010

A high-ranking Philadelphia police officer indicted Friday on federal extortion and bribery charges pleaded not guilty before a federal magistrate yesterday.

Police Inspector Daniel Castro, who had been under 24-hour house arrest over the weekend, is no longer under house arrest.

U.S. Magistrate Thomas Reuter removed that condition yesterday before Castro's arraignment but ordered all previous conditions of bail - including no contact with other witnesses - to remain in force.

Castro, 47, dressed in a dark-blue suit, white shirt and tie, sat quietly in the courtroom, surrounded by family members.

He declined to comment to reporters afterward.

Defense attorney William Brennan argued that house arrest was unnecessary, noting that Castro had an "exemplary career" and that his case was "not your typical police-corruption case" in that his alleged crimes were not committed, for the most part, in performance of his official duties.

"This is not a shakedown of a drug dealer like some of the other cases involving police officers," Brennan said.

The defense attorney said he and Castro would review the indictment, look at the evidence "and meet with the prosecutors and see what the case is about, and then act accordingly."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Tsao argued that Castro should be kept under 24-hour house arrest in order to ensure the safety of the community, including the "real risk" that Castro might commit additional crimes, such as threatening witnesses or others involved in the case.

Authorities said Castro, who has been suspended with intent to dismiss, hired a "collector" through an FBI informant to recoup $90,000 from a former business partner (plus $60,000 in interest) in 2006 for a real-estate investment that went belly-up.

An undercover FBI agent posed as the "collector," who later gave Castro three payments totaling $21,000, the indictment said. Authorities said Castro believed that the "collector" had strong-armed the payments from the one-time business partner.

Castro also was charged with accepting a free 42-inch LCD television from a government informant in exchange for running a license plate through a law-enforcement database.

Castro is the 14th Philadelphia officer - and the highest-ranking one - to be charged with crimes since 2009. He headed the force's traffic division.

If convicted of all charges, Castro could face 46 to 57 months in prison under preliminary advisory guidelines.

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