WILMINGTON, DE — David C. Weiss, U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware, announced that on July 25, 2022, a federal jury convicted a Bear, Delaware couple on charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering and various other money laundering offenses, in connection with an eight-year scheme to launder drug proceeds. The jury separately found that thirteen real properties were involved in the money laundering offenses and subject to criminal forfeiture. Circuit Judge Stephanos Bibas, sitting by designation, accepted the verdict.
According to court records and evidence presented at trial, between 2009 and 2017, Omar Morales Colon, age 45, and his wife Shakira Martinez, age 44, laundered over 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. The government also presented evidence at trial that Colon made improvements to those properties using drug proceeds, including paying cash to have an underground bunker installed beneath his home in Bear, Delaware.
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 (DEA) subsequently discovered the secret underground bunker beneath Colon’s residence, accessed by a tunnel behind a false fireplace, in which Colon hid a marijuana grow operation.
U.S. Attorney Weiss commented on the case, “The defendant was a sophisticated drug trafficker who conspired with others, including members of the Sinaloa cartel, to bring vast amounts of cocaine into Delaware. He and Ms. Martinez also laundered the proceeds of his drug activity through the U.S. financial system. The DEA’s investigation led to the seizure of 17 kilograms of cocaine, pounds of marijuana, nearly $1 million in cash, and the conviction of a major drug trafficker. My office will continue working with our law enforcement partners to hold accountable those who profit from illegal drug operations by not only prosecuting them, but also endeavoring to deprive them of the fruits of their illegal activities.
“Colon and Martinez underestimated IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agents’ hallmark expertise,” said IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge Yury Kruty. These defendants thought they could hide the source of their ill-gotten gains, but the overwhelming evidence presented to the jury during trial showed just how wrong they were. This guilty verdict is a reminder that our commitment to unraveling complex financial transactions and money laundering schemes remain unwavering.”
Colon was convicted in September 2021 of related counts – conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Colon faces a mandatory minimum of ten years in prison when sentenced, with a maximum of life. Martinez faces a maximum of twenty years in prison. Judge Bibas will determine the defendants’ sentences, after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer K. Welsh and Meredith C. Ruggles are prosecuting the case. This case was investigated by the DEA Philadelphia Division and the IRS-Criminal Investigation.
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