EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 8, 2013

Londonderry police uncover major drug operation

Search warrant nets more than stolen goods

By Doug Ireland

---- — LONDONDERRY — When police searched a Ridgemont Drive home for stolen merchandise last week, they found a lot more than they expected.

Officers, seeking items taken from a vendor at the Londonderry Flea Market, were surprised to find a major drug operation at 15 Ridgemont Drive, according to Londonderry police Detective Christopher Olson.

Police were looking for approximately $2,000 in stolen smoking pipes and other legal paraphernalia, he said, but they found thousands of dollars worth of weapons and drug manufacturing equipment in addition to marijuana, hashish and psychedelic mushrooms.

“When they went into the residence, it was pretty apparent something else was going on,” Olson said.

Ten police officers surrounded the home at about 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 30, briefly closing Ridgemont Drive to traffic for the public’s safety, he said.

A resident, 19-year-old Brandon Castiglione, was ordered from his father’s home during the investigation, Olson said. The father, 54-year-old Mark Castiglione, was not home, he said.

Police seized numerous semiautomatic weapons from the home, including assault rifles, according to a police affidavit.

Officers also found, but did not immediately confiscate, several bags of marijuana, glass pipes, plastic bags, glass pans containing a residue, razor blades, test tubes, butane cans and torches, the affidavit said.

Olson said it is one of the largest drug operations his department has investigated in years.

“This is one of the bigger ones we’ve had,” he said.

The home was also filled with the odor of marijuana, the affidavit said. Police halted their search for the stolen merchandise and received another warrant from Judge John Coughlin to search for drugs and related paraphernalia.

Police returned to seize the drugs, drug paraphernalia and various amounts of cash. Police found seven cans of butane fuel, a propane torch, two cans of Sterno, and two butane torches in the teenager’s bedroom, the affidavit said.

Brandon Castiglione is believed to have been manufacturing butane honey oil, which is derived from hashish, the affidavit said. The oil has a much THC higher content than marijuana, according to police.

Olson said police were particularly concerned about the potentially flammable items found in the house. This was the first honey oil manufacturing operation Olson said he has seen.

A U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officer told Londonderry police that similar manufacturing operations have led to deadly explosions, he said.

Police believed Brandon Castiglione may have stolen the items from the flea market, but the father was also a concern, Olson said. Mark Castiglione owns firearms and has been previously convicted of drug charges, according to the affidavit and court records. The older Castiglione is not allowed to own firearms, according to court records.

After police completed their search, they issued warrants for the arrests of the father and son.

Brandon Castiglione turned himself in Friday and was charged on three counts of possession of a controlled/narcotic drug and single counts of unlawful manufacture of a controlled drug, possession of a controlled/narcotic drug with intent to distribute, and unlawful possession of alcohol and intoxication.

He was arraigned Friday afternoon in 10th Circuit Court, where Coughlin set his bail at $100,000 cash. The judge set a high bail because Brandon Castiglione violated his bail conditions on previous drug possession charges, Olson said.

He is scheduled to appear in court Friday for a probable cause hearing.

Mark Castiglione was arrested on a single charge of control of a premises where a controlled drug is kept, a misdemeanor, Olson said. He was released on $10,000 cash bail. No court date has been set, a clerk said.

Olson said the investigation into items stolen from the flea market continues.