Warning: This video contains violent images.
It’s the stuff movies are made of: a suburban southern California housewife becomes a drug trafficker, then a government informant, and winds up begging for her life, a gun to her head.
Yet this story is true.
For years, Marie Jones was referred to only as "Jane Doe" by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and police, who tell NBC4 that she helped send seven major drug dealers to prison.
But a recent health scare spurred her to come forward and share her story and her identity with NBC4.
Jones' secret life of crime put her in harm's way. She's not proud of the decisions she made that landed her in the role of informant, and she hopes her story will serve as a cautionary tale.
“God gave me another chance in life,” she told NBC4. “He forgave me already. Now I’m here to do the right thing.”
Jones was a nurse and young mother in suburban Orange County in the early 90's, when her husband became terminally ill.
When an acquaintance connected her with major drug suppliers who offered her a job as a courier, she found the $10,000-a-day pay impossible to resist.
"I had to make extra money...and the extra was to buy shoes for my family, birthday presents," she said.
As a drug courier, Jones would get kilos of cocaine delievered to her Costa Mesa condo, and then conceal them in sheets of fabric softener and plastic wrap, to evade drug-sniffing dogs at airports.
Then she'd fly the kilos in her luggage to New Orleans and exchange them with dealers there for cash, which she'd bring back to her suppliers in Orange County.
All told she brought more than $2 million to her California suppliers, she told NBC4.
Jones was caught while she boarding a flight from New Orleans to Orange County and an undercover cop asked to look in her luggage. The cops found $169,000 in drug money in her bags.
Jones confessed and agreed to become an informant rather than face a possible life sentence in prison. "I wanted to see my boys again," she said. "I wanted to hold them."
As an informant, Jones helped fedreal conduct sting operations. But during one sting, at a New Orleans motel, she came within moments of getting killed.
Jones had delievered a shipment of coke to a dealer who then pulled a gun on her and demanded she hand over thousands of dollars in drug money.
The highly charged confrontation is captured on surveillance video.
“I don’t have any money," Jones told the dealer in the video-taped exchange. "I swear to you, I don’t have any money," she said, pleading for her life.
The dealer cocked his gun and put it to her head. Undercover cops stormed into the room with moments to spare.
“I was ready to die. I was ready to die," Jones told NBC4, remembering those terrifying moments.
Jones spent two years giving the cops information on cocaine rings in Orange County and New Orleans. Her information helped authorities build a case against seven major dealers and send them to prison.
"She was the whole case. There was no doubt about it," said Robert Grant, a Louisiana prosecutor who took the case to trial.
Until now, Jones shared her secret past only with her two sons and a few family members. But this year, she had another brush with death, barely surviving a post-surgical infection that has left her breathing with the help of a tube.
She decided it was time to tell her neigbhors, and the public her story, and hopes it serves as a cautionary tale for anyone who considers getting involved in crime. "Don't," she said. "Don't do it. Don't do it."