Springfield and Willard residents indicted in cocaine conspiracy

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Three southwest Missouri residents are among five defendants indicted for their roles in a drug-trafficking conspiracy after federal agents seized 16 kilograms of cocaine while arresting two co-defendants in Texas.

Mario Jose Castillo, 55, of Springfield, Mo.; Christhian Eduardo Cruz-Pineda, 22, a citizen of Honduras residing in Springfield; Johnathan David Emerson, 47, a resident of Willard, Mo.; and Bryan Ramirez-Aguero, 33, a citizen of Honduras, and Erika Martinez Hernandez, 40, a citizen of Mexico, both residing in Grand Prairie, Texas, were charged in a 10-count superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Springfield.

The superseding indictment replaces an indictment returned on April 10, 2024. This superseding indictment contains the same or similar charges as the original indictment. Still, it increases the amount of cocaine allegedly distributed in the drug-trafficking conspiracy and lengthens the timeframe of the conspiracy to incorporate an additional drug seizure.

Federal agents arrested Ramirez-Aguero and Martinez Hernandez on April 11, 2024. At the time of their arrest for the original indictment, agents seized approximately 16 kilograms of cocaine and $145,123 from their residence. Today’s superseding indictment reflects that drug seizure.

The federal indictment alleges that all five of the defendants participated in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine from Dec. 12, 2021, to April 11, 2024.

In addition to the drug-trafficking conspiracy, Castillo is charged with two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm, one count of possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute, and one count of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime.

Castillo, Emerson, and Martinez Hernandez are charged together with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Castillo and Martinez Hernandez are charged together with one count of unlawfully using a telephone to facilitate the drug-trafficking conspiracy. Castillo and Emerson are charged together with one count of money laundering.

Emerson and Cruz-Pineda are charged together with one count of possessing 500 grams or more of cocaine with the intent to distribute.

Cruz-Pineda is charged with one count of being an unlawful user of a controlled substance in possession of a firearm.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica R. Eatmon. It was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, IRS-Criminal Investigation, the Springfield, Mo., Police Department, and the Greene County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department.

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