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Judge slaps ex-police inspector with 5-year term

Former Philadelphia police inspector Daniel Castro was sentenced today to five years in prison for conspiring to commit extortion.

Former Philadelphia police inspector Daniel Castro was sentenced today to five years in prison for conspiring to commit extortion.

The term imposed by U.S. District Court Judge Harvey Bartle III is more than the three years federal prosecutors had sought.

Castro's family members gasped and his mother broke into tears when they heard the sentence.

Bartle ordered Castro to report to prison on Nov. 15 and also fined him $10,000.

"Police officers, unlike many in society, take an oath to uphold the law," Bartle said. "Mr. Castro has tarnished all who wear the uniform . . . I recognize that [Castro] has shown contrition. I believe that he is sincere. Unfortunately, his contrition does not repair the damage he did."

After the hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis D. Lappen said that the judge's sentence sent a message.

"Most police officers are honest, law-abiding, hard working," Lappen said. "When a crime like this is committed it's a disgrace to the police department, it's a disgrace to the community."

Outside of court, Castro said he would appeal the decision, and maintained he was trapped by authorities into the committing the crime.

"I am the victim. Money was stolen from me," he said, referring to the $90,000 he sought to recoup from Wilson Encarnacion, a former business partner and target of the plot.

Castro held up a photo of Encarnacion and said, "This guy deserves just as much exposure as I do."

Castro also held up a photograph, purportedly of Encarnacion's house, saying, "He lives in this lavish home in New Jersey, half a million dollars, mortgage free. He stole from me, he stole from family members, he stole from others."

Castro also lashed out against Rony Moshe, the FBI informant who helped build the case against Castro, and who recorded their conversations as they discussed the extortion plot.

"I made my mistake. I accept responsibility," he said. "But I'm no criminal, I'm no thief and I certainly do not deserve the punishment that was handed down today. But we have to fight it."

Seventeen people spoke in court on Castro's behalf, appealing for leniency and asking that he be sentenced to some form of community service in the city he had served as a police officer.

Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey spoke about Castro's sentence at nearby Police Headquarters.

"It's a waste of a career and the judge sent a very strong message not only to Dan Castro but to others that might betray the trust the public has given us as police officers," Ramsey said. "It's not a good day for any of us, but I think that the sentence is appropriate."

Castro's attorney Brian McMonagle had sought to keep him out of jail by arguing that Castro's 25-year record of service in the Police Department should outweigh his involvement in a scheme to strong-arm a business associate into repaying a debt.

At the time of his arrest, Castro, 48, was a police inspector, three levels below Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey.

"Sending Daniel Castro to prison would be an unspeakable tragedy," McMonagle wrote in a memorandum filed last week. "He and his family have suffered enough from this horrible situation. He has endured the devastating loss of his career and his good name. This is not a case about a corrupt cop. It is a case about a good man who briefly lost his way."

Castro pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy in June after a jury trial two months earlier ended in a deadlock, 10-2 in his favor, on most other charges against him.

Castro, believed to be the highest-ranking Philadelphia police officer to face criminal charges in several decades, was arrested in November 2010 on charges of plotting to shake down a business partner who owed him $90,000. It was a stunning downfall for a charismatic and ambitious officer who had designs on one day becoming police commissioner.

Castro's trial in April centered on the testimony of an FBI informant who planned the extortion with Castro and recorded their conversations over several months. On tapes played for jurors, Castro was heard agreeing to allow strong-arm enforcers to "scare" his former associate, and, later, authorizing the use of violence. No extortion actually took place, but prosecutors said Castro believed it had.

On the stand, Castro admitted his involvement, but he said authorities had entrapped him by using the informant to talk him into it.

After the jury could not reach a verdict, federal prosecutors planned to retry the case. They agreed to drop the remaining charges in exchange for Castro's plea.

McMonagle's filing includes letters from several of Castro's former colleagues, praising his dedication to the city as "exemplary." When an 11-year-old girl was raped in Kensington in 2009, Castro, then the district's captain, visited her and her family. According to the girl's father, he counseled her, gave her a toy, and told her to call him if she ever needed anything.

City Council members Donna Reed Miller, Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, and Jannie Blackwell wrote accounts of their experiences with Castro as a mentor to families and victims of crime, and as a policeman who worked hard to clean up drug-ridden neighborhoods.

Castro's mother, siblings, and fiancée also submitted letters asking for leniency. His mother, Maria Virginia Cartagena, said he had devoted his life to his career.

"He woke up early and went to bed late, he spent weekends dedicated to his work so that he can make a better life for him and our family," she wrote. "He had a great dream to become police commissioner one day, to make a lot of positive changes in Philadelphia."

Three jurors asked the court for leniency, one saying justice would not be served by imprisoning Castro.