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Fast Cars and Rap Stars: How a Sugar Daddy's Empire Crumbled on Everyone Involved

One of the hottest Valley party spots in the mid-2000s was Scottsdale's CBNC, short for Coyote Bay Night Club. Hip-hop stars and professional athletes flocked there. Rap artist and music producer Kasseem Dean (a.k.a. Swizz Beatz) was a regular and claimed he was one of the owners.

Tucked in the Papago Plaza strip mall, on the southwest corner of McDowell and Scottsdale roads, the place exuded upscale cool.

On Friday and Saturday nights, a good-looking crowd of young people packed the three bars and dance floor, the latter lit up from beneath with multicolored LEDs.

CBNC had two VIP rooms cordoned off with velvet ropes. Dress code: classy. No baggy jeans or do-rags. Security was tight, with a plethora of off-duty Maricopa County Sheriff's Office deputies. The general managers looked like bouncers, a hard-to-miss pair of burly twin brothers named Jesse and James.

On just one of the many star-studded nights, Busta Rhymes and newly minted rap star 50 Cent hit "da club" in July 2003 after finishing a performance in Phoenix.

50 Cent, who famously had been shot before rising to stardom, felt comfortable enough to take off his bulletproof vest and dance on top of a bar counter.

On other nights, partygoers could see Eminem. Or Snoop Dogg. Or former Phoenix Suns star Amar'e Stoudemire. Or maybe Mike Tyson, NBA baller Allen Iverson, Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, rapper/actor LL Cool J, or pop stars Alicia Keys, Britney Spears, and Beyoncé.

Despite what Swizz Beatz claimed, the owner of the club, on paper, was Jodi Upton.

She's the sister of the twins who served as managers and — like them — is tall and blond.

Meet some of the key players in a twisted tale of money, drugs, fast cars and rap stars.

Corporate records and the club's liquor license listed Upton, then in her late 20s, as owner not only of CBNC but of Scottsdale's successful Exotic Auto Sales and Leasing dealership. The car dealership touted a long list of celebrity clients, many of whom also went to the club.

The early 2000s were amazing times for Upton. She mixed with wealthy superstars and athletes, sold Ferraris and Lambor-ghinis, attended posh parties, and flew in private jets.

She was hardworking and business-savvy — but the businesses weren't really hers.

The real boss of CBNC was her boyfriend, Nazreth Derboghossian, a Syrian-born Armenian who went by "Naz."

About 15 years older than Upton, Naz had a background in the exotic-car business and enjoyed a lavish lifestyle. The couple met in 1999 when she got a receptionist job at a Scottsdale car company where Naz worked. Soon after their affair began, he was paying for Upton's apartment.

Only a few months earlier, in her home state of Massachusetts, Upton had been struggling in a violent relationship with her boyfriend, the father of her first son. And she'd been plagued by accusations against her father, George, owner of a used-car lot and a notorious criminal on Cape Cod.

By the end of 2000, she and Naz had moved into a $2 million home in Scottsdale's Troon North community. She gave birth to their son in early 2003, with Swizz Beatz signing on as the boy's godfather.

Naz showered his girlfriend with gifts and travel. He bought her a diamond bracelet for her 24th birthday, funded extravagant shopping trips. In their home, he kept stacks of cash in a safe. The couple always were off to Las Vegas — Hard Rock Café was their hangout. At the blackjack table, Naz would slide $5,000 chips to Upton and toss large tips to service workers.

To help pull in the VIPs and their entourages at the club, Naz's attitude often was: Don't worry. It's on the house.

In 2004, Upton — with Naz behind the scenes — bought Scorch Bar in Desert Ridge Marketplace.

As fun as CBNC and Scorch were for their clientele, the clubs were major money-losers. Though plenty of cash was coming in, it never seemed to be enough to pay the bills.

Both businesses had to be supported financially by Exotic Auto, which itself was propped up by millions of dollars flowing in — from Mexico.

Fact was, Naz had a sugar daddy of his own who bankrolled everything.

He was Mario de la Fuente Manriquez, a prominent figure in the Sonora, Mexico, business community who split his time among homes in Tucson, Scottsdale, and Nogales, Mexico.

Manriquez had earned a fortune in the communications business in Mexico, and from 2000 to at least 2008, he blew a good deal of it on Naz, whom he reportedly loved like a son. He had bought the Troon home for Naz and agreed to "loan" him millions of dollars with no real expectation of getting paid back.

That is, the fast times at CBNC, the sales of high-priced cars, the extravagant lifestyles led by Naz and those close to him — they all had one thing in common:

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.