Former nightclub owner sentenced

Published 7:43 pm Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cynthia Marquez

Cynthia Marquez


The former owner of a Highway 17 nightclub was sentenced this week to 120 months in prison for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms of cocaine.

Cynthia Marquez (formerly Perez), 48, of Grifton, was arrested in January 2011 as part of Operation “No Quarter,” a multi-agency task force designed to attack the infrastructure of Mexican drug-trafficking organizations like Los Zetas, La Familia, and the Gulf and Sinaloa cartels, according to a press release from Public Information Officer Don Connelly with the U.S. Department of Justice, Eastern District, North Carolina. The drug cartels operate throughout North Carolina, the U.S. and Mexico, importing large quantities of cocaine, marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine into the U.S, said the release.

The DEA investigation, spanning ten years and five North Carolina counties, netted 100 arrests, $4.6 million in street drugs, $2.2 million in U.S. Currency, 35 firearms and 35 properties valued at $1.5 million, said the release. Along with the IRS, ATF, U.S. Marshals Service, ICE, Homeland Security, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, and 16 other North Carolina sheriff’s offices and police departments, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office narcotics unit was one of many contributors to the investigation.

“There’s nobody in Beaufort County growing plants and making cocaine. Somewhere down the line, someone has to get it from the cartels,” said Capt. Russell Davenport, head of Beaufort County’s narcotics unit. “Drug dealers do not see county lines — we all end up dealing with the same people.”

Davenport said his unit shared case files on some of the targets of Operation “No Quarter.”

Marquez was the former owner of Desperado’s, a now defunct nightclub on U.S. Highway 17 South between Chocowinity and Vanceboro, that also has a checkered past, Davenport said. According to the USDOJ press release, before her arrest, the task force tracked approximately 67 kilograms of cocaine through Marquez, who used businesses she owned — Joyeria Perez Jewelry in Greenville and a real estate business — to launder the drug proceeds.

In addition to the drug sentence, U.S. District Judge Terrence W. Boyle sentenced Marquez to another 120-month sentence for money laundering to run concurrently with the first, followed by five years of supervised release. Marquez also forfeited $146,000, 18 pieces of real property and settled a drug tax lien of approximately $100,000. The Hummer vehicle forfeited by Marquez is now being used as D.A.R.E vehicle by the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office, said the press release.