The wife of a Bear man who built a secret underground bunker to grow marijuana may not be able to go to jail with him, but she’s going.
Shakira Martinez has been sentenced in federal court to nine years in prison for money laundering, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and structuring bank transactions following a jury verdict in July of 2022.
She was convicted with her husband, Omar Colon, referred to in court as one of the biggest cocaine traffickers in Delaware history. He previously was sentenced to 45 years’ incarceration.
The two were accused of laundering nearly $1 million in drug proceeds through the purchase of real estate properties in Delaware and Pennsylvania using their company, Zemi Property Management.
They deposited drug money into several different bank accounts – and asked their friends and family members to do the same – and then used those funds to buy cashier’s checks that funded the property purchases.
Colon wouldn’t have been successful without Martinez’s money laundering and structuring crimes, the court was told.
Colon was arrested on May 6, 2017, shortly after giving his cocaine supplier $382,045 in cash in a hotel parking lot in Newark, Delaware.
The Drug Enforcement Administration later found a secret underground bunker beneath Colon and Martinez’s home, accessed by a tunnel behind a false fireplace.
Circuit Judge Stephanos Bibas said during sentencing that money laundering is a “huge issue that fuels the drug trade with all its harms.” He said the prison sentences were a way for the court to send a message.
Special Agent in Charge Yury Kruty said “IRS Criminal Investigation special agents are uniquely qualified to follow complex financial transactions and uncover the source of the illegal funds. Martinez and Colon employed multiple tactics to clean up their ill-gotten gains, but in the end, they could not outsmart the government.”
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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