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Respected Philadelphia Surgeon Convicted for "Masking" Fugitive Drug Dealer


March-April 1997

On February 27 a federal jury convicted Dr. Jose Castillo, 68, a plastic surgeon, for conspiracy to harbor a fugitive and obstruction of justice for changing the appearance of drug dealer Richard Ramos while he was a fugitive (U.S. v. Ramos, 1997WL83746). Ramos, 28, is serving a 30-year prison sentence for selling an estimated more than $20 million worth of cocaine and crack in Philadelphia from 1987 to 1990 (Joseph A. Slobodzian, "Doctor found guilty of aiding a fugitive," Philadelphia Inquirer, February 28, 1997, p. R2; "Plastic Surgeon Is Convicted Of Disguising Wanted Man," New York Times, February 28, 1997, p. A22; Associated Press, "Plastic surgeon convicted on altering drug kingpin," Houston Chronicle, February 28, 1997, p. 10A).

Castillo was accused of operating on Ramos in 1990 to blur his fingerprints, alter his face, suck fat from his waist and reduce identifying facial scars, helping him elude police for 18 months. Castillo says that he did not know Ramos was a drug dealer, and that he was simply involved in a one-day operation to relieve infected burns. During the trial, Ramos testified that he never told Castillo about his indictment and failed to identify Castillo in the courtroom (Joseph A. Slobodzian, "Drug lord fails to identify surgeon," Philadelphia Inquirer, February 22, 1997, p. B1).

Castillo remains free on bail for now, but faces up to 10 years in jail and could lose his medical license. Castillo's attorney, Mark S. Raspanti (Tel: (215) 972-6400), said he will ask U.S. District Judge Marjorie O. Rendell to set aside the verdict and would appeal the verdict if necessary.

Castillo, who also has a general medical practice, is famous locally for charitable work with the poor and elderly in Philadelphia's Hispanic community. Castillo also serves as host of a Spanish-language medical advice cable TV program and appeared in the movie "Philadelphia." He has been praised for his work by the Clinton White House and the consul general of Mexico.