Former Essex County Deputy Sheriff Pleads Guilty To Money Laundering

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CAMDEN – A Union Township resident who was a former Essex County Deputy Sheriff admitted to laundering money he believed was the proceeds of drug trafficking, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Eric Hawkins, 43, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler in Camden federal court.

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According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, Hawkins owned a non-profit business, Urban Community Unification Inc. in addition to serving as a deputy with the Essex County Sheriff’s Department. Hawkins met with an undercover law enforcement officer who held himself out to be a broker who laundered cash for a drug dealer.

Hawkins agreed to launder cash – proceeds of the drug dealer’s drug trafficking business – through Urban Community Unification, listing the cash as a “donation” to the non-profit organization. Hawkins accepted $25,000, $35,000, and $20,000 in cash on three separate occasions and laundered the money through Urban Community Unification’s bank account. He returned a portion of the cash less a five percent fee he charged for laundering the money. Hawkins also accepted $75,000 in cash to launder.

The money laundering charge to which Hawkins pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is currently scheduled for Dec. 19, before Kugler.

Fishman credited special agents from the FBI’s Atlantic City Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward in Newark and special agents from IRS-Criminal Investigation in Mays Landing, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Victor W. Lessoff, and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office with the ongoing investigation leading to the guilty plea.


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