NEW YORK: A Texas woman has been sentenced to 37 years in prison for leading a gang that carried out targeted robberies of Indian-American homes across the US.
Chaka Castro, 44, was sentenced on Monday by US District Court Judge Laurie Michelson of the Eastern District of Michigan, who presided over the trial.
After a five-week trial, Castro was convicted of one count of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations (RICO) conspiracy, four counts of assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering and four counts of use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
According to evidence presented at trial, from 2011 to 2014, Castro and her robbery crews committed a string of home invasions in Georgia, New York, Ohio, Michigan and Texas.
The leader of the gang was Castro, who would generate lists of robbery targets in various states around the country, specifically families of Asian and Indian ancestry, and then assign her accomplices to carry out the armed robberies of these families within their homes.
Once Castro assigned a crew to a particular area, members of the group would travel to that location, conduct surveillance and execute the robberies.
Utilising a particular modus operandi in each of the robberies, the crews disguised their appearance with clothing and bandanas so that victims of their robberies would have difficulty identifying them.
They would openly carry and brandish firearms to gain control of the victims and then immediately corral the victims, including children, into one location in the home.
At least one robber would then restrain the victims with duct tape and threats of violence, as another partner would ransack the home in search of cash, jewellery and electronics to steal.
The group organised their trips to involve multiple home invasion robberies over a series of days, prosecutors said.