Money Laundering Grading (Part 1)

by | Aug 5, 2020 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

On May 19, 2020, a three-judge appellate panel decided the Essex County case of State v. Ian Marias. The principal issue under N.J.S.A. 2C:21-23 was whether the “fair market value” underlying a money laundering charge is capped by the discounted price that the defendant received for stolen goods.

Presiding Judge Sabatino wrote for the Appellate Division in relevant part: Having considered these authorities and conceptual principles, we agree with the State that the trial court erred in amending the indictment from a first-degree to a second-degree money laundering offense. However, in reaching that determination, we do not adopt the State’s argument that the “amount involved” should include the fair market value of the unsold stolen goods that Marias was keeping in his grandmother’s garage.

Notably, Marias was indicted under the “transactional” provision of the money laundering statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:21-25(b), not the “transportation/possession” portion, N.J.S.A. 2C:21-25(a). We do not understand why the indictment was framed in that limited way. Be that as it may, we do not reach here the hypothetical question of what the “amount involved” would be if defendant had been charged with a “subsection (a)” offense under N.J.S.A. 2C:21-25 rather than, or in addition to, the “subsection (b)” transactional offense.

We do not conceive of the “transaction” under subsection (b) to encompass the mere holding or movement of goods with an intent to launder them. If we were to do so, it would impermissibly render the transportation/possession language within subsection (a) redundant and superfluous. N.J.S.A. 2C:21-25 “criminalizes three distinct types of conduct.” We must construe the statute in a manner that imbues meaning to all of its terms. Statutes should be construed to give “meaning to all of the statute’s language.”

We recognize that in State v. Diorio (2014), our Supreme Court held that the money laundering statute is a continuing offense for purposes of the statute of limitations when a defendant’s successive actions bespeak a common scheme to defraud. But unlike the present indictment’s description of Marias’s conduct interacting with one buyer, the defendant in Diorio undertook a series of transactions, bank deposits, and withdrawals, and the fabrication of company records, all in an effort to perpetuate and disguise his continuing scheme. Id. at 603-07.

New Jersey’s criminal code refers to money laundering as “financial facilitation.” It is a very broad statute with harsh incarceration and monetary penalties. The mere possession of cash derived from illegal activity suffices for “financial facilitation” under New jersey law.