Court told slaying was ‘not personal’

"Castro's murder was not personal,"" prosecutor Steve Sherriff told jurors today in his closing address in a Brampton courtroom. ""Castro had to go for business reasons…"

The Toronto Star
July 7, 2008

Court told slaying was ‘not personal’
Accused were driven by greed, prosecutor says
Bob Mitchell

The murder of Mauricio Castro, a major Canadian drug trafficker, was a "shared business" venture by key members of a criminal organization, jurors heard today.

"Castro's murder was not personal," prosecutor Steve Sherriff told jurors today in his closing address in a Brampton courtroom.

"Castro had to go for business reasons…"

Jaime Restrepo, 34, a Mississauga man with ties to Colombia and Costa Rica, Michael Allen, 36, of Mississauga and London and Zacky Deleon, 34, of Barrie have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Castro, who was shot inside his Ford Escape on July 26, 2005 at Mississauga's Square One shopping

"We say we have the mastermind (Restrepo), the killer (Allen) and the go-between (Deleon)," Sherriff said. "These men had a shared reason to commit the murder…"

Justice Ron Thomas has told the jury they must decide whether the accused men are guilty or not on an individual basis.

To do that, Sherriff said they're each responsible for different roles in the planned murder of Castro, which was a "joint venture" driven by "greed" as they were "taking care of business."

Four days after Castro was slain, his father Humberto, 71, a judge, was also murdered near his home in Periera, Colombia, a contract killing Sherriff said was also orchestrated by Restrepo.

It's the Crown's case that Allen used either a .357 calibre or a .38 calibre handgun, both revolvers, to pump four bullets into Castro outside of the mall's Burger King.

Sherriff and co-prosecutor Mike Morris allege that Restrepo paid Allen two kilos of cocaine worth between $50,000 to $60,000 to murder his cousin and that the drugs were delivered by Deleon, who was also well aware of the murder plots and had a financial interest in seeing Castro dead.

It's the Crown's case that Restrepo ordered the murder to avoid paying Castro a $1 million debt, his share of having $2.4 million seized by U.S. Customs at the Detroit/Windsor border on Aug. 18, 2004.

With Castro and his father dead, Restrepo's crew, which also included his younger brother Jorge, 31, of Mississauga and a Toronto man Jorge Acosta, 31 — both of whom testified as Crown witnesses — would take over their lucrative Colombian cocaine importing operation.

Jurors heard how Restrepo's crew had moved millions of dollars of cocaine for Castro for several years throughout Greater Toronto but they earned far less money than Castro, who imported the drugs with his father from Colombia through Mexico.

The murders would also allow them to keep a stash of cocaine worth about $400,000 they were storing for Castro in a safe house in the High Park area of Toronto as well as never having to repay any of the money seized money from the sale of 200 kilos of cocaine that was heading back to Colombia hidden inside a tractor trailer.

"The murder was done out of raw greed … get rid of the creditor … it was a shared activity," Sherriff said.

Although Restrepo told his crew they had to also kill Humberto because he would seek revenge for his son's death, Sherriff said there was no evidence to suggest Restrepo's crew was in danger.

Sherriff demonstrated to jurors today how various cell phone conversations, including a "flurry of activity" on their "murder phones" around the time of Castro's death at Square One were made by the accused men in this Brampton trial.

"This is independent evidence," Sherriff said of the story told by several Crown witnesses, including Acosta, the getaway driver.

"Acosta and Allen didn't leave a blood trail but they left a solid, independent, electronic trail. They were caught in the web of this electronic trail," Sherriff said.

"Acosta is a dispicable human being … a wretched guy but nice guys and choir boys don't stand guard at a murder scene."

Cell phone evidence shows Acosta called Allen, who was out of the car and walking towards the mall at 11:49 a.m. - about 10 minutes before Castro was slain, Sherriff said.

"Acosta left a cell phone trail right to Allen, the shooter," Sherriff said.

Both Acosta, who testified he drove Allen to the Square One area to commit the murder, and Jorge Restrepo, who testified he lured Castro to the mall on the premise he was going to pay him some of their debt, told jurors that Jaime Restrepo ordered both contract killings as the boss of their cocaine distribution ring.

Acosta was given immunity and placed in witness protection despite admitting he helped with Castro's murder at the mall and also hired the hitmen for Restrepo to murder Castro's father in Colombia.

Jorge Restrepo, instead of being tried with the others, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and received a nine year prison sentence in return for testifying.

It's the Crown's case that Allen met Restrepo along with his brother, Acosta and Deleon in a park near the mall about a week before Castro's death and agreed to become the hitman.

"This was not a cocaine meeting … this was a meeting where the murder contract was awarded to Allen for two things (2 kilos of cocaine," Sherriff said.

In addition to the cell phone calls, Sherriff showed a bank video photo that he claimed was Allen, shot at 11:46 a.m. that was captured as he was walking towards the mall.

Crown evidence suggested Allen initially was going to shoot Castro from the cover of bushes when he left his family home in Bolton.

But on the day of the killing, Castro wasn't home so Jorge Restrepo went ahead with his previously-arranged meeting with Castro at the mall at noon. Cell phone evidence showed Jorge Restrepo called Castro at 11:41 a.m. to make sure he was there.

Jaime left his brother to "manage" the murder when he flew to Colombia two days earlier to prepare for Humberto's death, Sherriff told jurors.

According to Sherriff, Allen walked up to the Escape and fired one shot into Castro's face and the other three into his upper body - evidence backed up by a pathologist and by Acosta, who testified Allen told him where he shot Castro when he returned to the getaway car following the hit.

It's the Crown's case that Deleon delivered Allen's payment of two kilos seven hours later

Further independent evidence of Allen's role was delivered when his girlfriend visited him in a London jail before his arrest for the murder when he asked her to get rid of an unrelated weapon and was concerned about where her cell phone was - a cell phone he used the day of the murder.

A wiretap played for jurors also showed Allen asking a friend where his .357 calibre revolver was in February 2006 and becoming angry when he learned his friend didn't have it.

Sherriff told jurors he couldn't prove the .357 was the murder weapon only that Allen was "super worried" that he didn't have this "special gun" and he's concerned it's "coming back to haunt him."

Deleon was in Barrie at the time of the murder "building alibis," Sherriff said. He had a $200,000 share of the pot (money invested in the operation) … and was eager to get rid of the million dollar debt, Sherriff said.

"He's on the line for a share of the loss but also stands to win big with Castro gone," Sherriff said.

Sherriff told jurors if they find Deleon only knew about the murders and became involved afterwards, then he walks but said there was a "mountain of evidence" that shows he was "actively involved" in the murders, including recruiting Allen as the paid assassin.

"He vouched for Allen … He trusted Deleon …," Sherriff said. "He is référence central … This is aiding a murder.

"You don't have to be at the scene of the murder and be pulling the trigger to be guilty of murder."

Sherriff also reminded jurors that Deleon, using a cell phone bought with the name "Captain Hook," called Allen nine times the day before the murder and was with Acosta doing surveillance on Castro's home in Bolton the night before the murder.

He was also in on the early stages of the plot when both Castros were initially to be murdered in Colombia, Sherriff said.

The Crown's closing address continues this afternoon. Defence lawyers are scheduled to deliver their closing addresses tomorrow and Friday with the jury beginning their deliberations next week.

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