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HAMMOND — A Portage man who led a double life as a family man and a street gang leader is going to prison.

U.S. District Court Judge Philip P. Simon sentenced 47-year-old John J. Castillo to 18 years last week for his 2016 guilty plea to racketeering conspiracy for his role as an “Inca,” or regional leader of a Latin Kings faction operating in Gary, Hammond and East Chicago.

Castillo admitted, as part of his plea deal, he participated directly or indirectly in the gang’s drug trafficking and violence, including arranging for a gun to be transported in 2014, from Indiana to Latin Kings in Chicago.

As an Inca, he collected gang dues and delivered them to its Chicago leadership, mediated its disputes among local gang factions and took part distributing cocaine and marijuana between 2003 and his arrest in March 2016.

But his defense attorney Andrea D. Lyons, of Chicago, and Castillo’s family pleaded with the judge that he had a decent side.

Their voices, contained in a court memorandum, say Castillo was also a steel worker, a devoted grandson and father whose life belies a stereotype of a gangster.

Lyons said Castillo’s mother abandoned him as a child, forcing his grandmother to raise him.

He became an alcoholic by age 13, but also married his senior year in high school just before he had to leave for military service in the U.S. Army that eventually included the Desert Storm war in 1991.

The couple gave birth to two daughters, who both went to college, and a son who joined the National Guard.

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His wife and children’s comment reflect their divided feeling.

His wife is quoted in a court memo, "John has always been there for me and I’m so hurt by his decision to choose his gang over his own family. I stayed because I believed in him.”

One daughter, who graduated Magna Cum Laude from Ball State University and now has a successful career as a corporate recruiter, wrote, “He wanted nothing more than for me to succeed in areas where he failed …”

Another daughter recounted family cook outs, family game nights and birthday parties he attended as well as sporting events. “… he cared for us the best he could,” she wrote.

He is one of more than 80 members of the Latin Kings and Imperial Gangster street gangs that were taken off the street under the final years of former U.S. Attorney David Capp, who served 31 years as a federal prosecutor until his retirement in 2017.

Judge Simon gave Castillo credit for serving four years in federal detention awaiting sentencing, as well as his cooperation over that time with federal authorities in a number of Latin King prosecutions.

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