A woman from Bear is facing nine years in prison for her role in a husband-wife drug trafficking and money laundering drug operation that included an underground bunker.
Shakira Martinez was sentenced for money laundering, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and structuring bank transactions following a jury verdict in July 2022.
Martinez was convicted with her husband, Omar Colon, who was previously sentenced to 45 years for money laundering and drug crimes. Colon was referred to in court proceedings as one of the biggest cocaine traffickers in Delaware history.
According to court records, between 2009 and 2017, Martinez and Colon laundered nearly a million dollars 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.
According to a release “the government noted at the sentencing hearing, the success of Colon’s drug empire would not have been possible without Martinez’s money laundering and structuring crimes.”
Colon was arrested on May 6, 2017, shortly after giving his cocaine supplier $382,045 in cash in a hotel parking lot in Newark.
The Drug Enforcement Administration later discovered a secret underground bunker beneath Colon and Martinez’s residence, accessed by a tunnel behind a false fireplace. Colon used the space for a marijuana grow operation.
Before imposing sentence, the juge in the case noted the seriousness of Martinez’s crimes and said that money laundering is a “huge issue that fuels the drug trade with all its harms.” He further noted that the Court “needs to send a message that money laundering is a serious crime.”
U.S. Attorney David Weiss offered the following, “Ms. Martinez has received a serious sentence consistent with her central role in Colon’s drug empire. As Circuit Judge Bibas acknowledged in his remarks, drug trafficking wreaks havoc on the community and on families. Mr. Colon imported massive amounts of cocaine into Delaware for many years. The only way for Mr. Colon and Ms. Martinez to reap the fruits of Colon’s drug crimes and amass a real estate empire was through their money laundering scheme.”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer K. Welsh and Meredith C. Ruggles prosecuted the case. The DEA Philadelphia Division and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations investigated this case.