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Woman sentenced on federal cocaine charges

A Pitt County businesswoman who will serve 12 years in prison is the latest to be sentenced in a drug-smuggling probe Wilson police are helping federal and local authorities conduct.

U.S. District Judge Terrence W. Boyle sentenced 48-year-old Cynthia Marquez of Grifton on Monday in a New Bern federal courtroom. Marquez received two concurrent 12-year sentences after pleading guilty to money laundering and cocaine distribution conspiracy charges.

She pleaded guilty to the charges in October 2011. Greenville police, Pitt County sheriff’s deputies and State Bureau of Investigation agents arrested her Jan. 18, 2011, after she allegedly bought more than 4 pounds of cocaine in an undercover sting.

An Internal Revenue Service investigation showed that Marquez used her businesses, including Joyeria Perez Jewelry in Greenville and a real estate firm, to launder drug money, U.S. attorney’s spokesman Don Connelly said.

Marquez agreed to forfeit 18 properties and more than $146,000 in cash in a civil settlement with federal prosecutors. She also forfeited a Hummer sport utility vehicle to the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office, which uses it for its Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.

The arrest was part of Operation No Quarter, a 10-year investigation into Mexican drug cartel activity in the region. Authorities didn’t say whether Marquez had any direct links to the cartels.

Prosecutors credit the operation with seizing 41 pounds of crystal meth worth $650,000, nearly 280 pounds of cocaine worth $3.8 million and 160 pounds of marijuana with a street value of $170,000.

Police, sheriff’s deputies and federal agents also seized $1.5 million in cash, 35 properties valued at a combined $1.5 million, 35 guns and 32 grams of heroin, Connelly said.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Marshals Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Department of Homeland Security conducted the investigation with help from state and local law enforcement.

Wilson police participated in the operation along with Greenville, Goldsboro, Rocky Mount, Farmville, New Bern and Burlington police and the Wayne, Pitt, Pamlico, Lenoir, Craven, Carteret, Beaufort, Person and Alamance county sheriffs’ offices.

Federal prosecutors also credited the North Carolina Army National Guard, SBI and N.C. Highway Patrol with taking part in the operation. | 265-7821
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