Bear Man With “Underground Grow Operation” Gets 45 Years In Federal Prison

David C. Weiss, U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware, announced that on Monday, November 21, 2022, Third Circuit Judge Stephanos Bibas, sitting by designation in the District of Delaware, sentenced Omar Morales Colon to 45 years of incarceration for conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to distribute cocaine, and various other drug and money laundering offenses.  The Court acknowledged that Colon was one of the biggest drug traffickers in the history of the State of Delaware and that Colon stood ready to use violence if necessary to protect his drug business.

Mr. Colon, age 45, was convicted of the drug and money laundering offenses following a pair of jury trials in September 2021 and July 2022.  His wife, Shakira Martinez, age 44, was also convicted of the money laundering offenses in the July trial; her sentencing hearing is scheduled for February 2023. 

According to court records and evidence presented at trial, between 2009 and 2017, Colon and Martinez 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. 

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 a 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, “Mr. Colon has received a serious sentence that properly reflects his decades of criminality.   As 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.  Those who aspire to a criminal lifestyle should take note that the resulting punishment may be decades behind bars.”

“IRS-Criminal Investigation is proud to have provided its financial expertise in this investigation,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Yury Kruty.  “We, along with our law enforcement partners and the Department of Justice, are committed to aggressively investigating individuals who engage in money laundering, tax fraud, or other types of white-collar crimes.”

“Colon ran a sophisticated drug trafficking and money laundering operation that included a hidden underground bunker at his house to conceal a marijuana grow operation,” said Thomas Hodnett, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Philadelphia Field Division.  “Colon received a significant federal prison sentence that is commensurate with the magnitude of his drug-trafficking activities.” 

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer K. Welsh and Meredith C. Ruggles prosecuted the case.  This case was investigated by the DEA Philadelphia Division and the IRS-Criminal Investigation.

Source: USDOJ

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