CAMDEN, NJ—A former Essex County Deputy Sheriff admitted today to laundering money he believed was the proceeds of drug trafficking, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced. Eric Hawkins, 43, of Union, N.J., pleaded guilty to an information charging him with money laundering. He entered his guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler in Camden federal court.
In addition to serving as a deputy with the Essex County Sheriff’s Department, Hawkins owned a non-profit business, Urban Community Unification Inc. 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 Urban Community Unification. 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 5 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 for Hawkins is currently scheduled for Dec. 19, 2011, before Judge Kugler.
U.S. Attorney 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.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney R. Stephen Stigall of the United States Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Camden.
Defense Counsel: Rocco C. Cipparone, Jr., Haddon Heights, N.J.