The Financial Crimes Unit is dedicated to the detection and prosecution of cases involving the unlawful conversion of funds or property. Most of these cases involve fraudulent activities using checks, credit cards, bank accounts and mortgages. Victims of financial crimes are varied and may include some of the most fragile victims, such as the elderly or infirm, or some of the more affluent, such as private and professional corporations. Several Assistant Prosecutors in the Unit are supervised by a Deputy Chief Assistant Prosecutor; assigned Detectives conduct the investigations, supervised by a Captain of Detectives. Presently, this Unit is staffed by a Director, four Assistant Prosecutors, a Detective Lieutenant, five Detectives, and one Clerical Assistant.
The Financial Crimes Unit is a vertical prosecution unit. It handles the cases from inception to prosecution. When the Financial Crimes Unit receives an allegation of criminal conduct it must determine whether a criminal prosecution is warranted. If criminal prosecution is warranted, a criminal charge and/or a presentation to a Grand Jury, is conducted. If an indictment is returned, the Financial Crimes Unit, is responsible for the case through a trial or plea agreement.
The Financial Crimes Unit fulfills the need to investigate financial crime cases on the county rather than municipal level. Municipal police departments are often not able to thoroughly investigate complicated economic crime. Indeed, in many cases, governmental, bank, and financial records can only be obtained by grand jury subpoena, court order or search warrant, and therefore are beyond the reach of a municipal police department. Many “white collar” crimes are multi-jurisdictional in nature. Beyond this, such cases are far more complex than the “average” case. They usually require review of voluminous records by an experienced Detective.
Because of the complexity of the allegations and investigations, close interaction between the Assistant Prosecutor and Detective is necessary throughout the investigation; especially since these investigations often involve assembling and reviewing complex financial and business records, preparing and obtaining court orders for in- and out-of-state records and witnesses (such as bank records, handwriting, toll records), and frequently present witness problems involving the 5th Amendment or attorney/client privilege.
Prior to 2008, this unit was known as the Official Corruption & Economic Crimes (O.C.E.C.) Section, which was also responsible for corruption and criminal misconduct in government other than law enforcement. In 2008, these government case responsibilities were transferred to the Professional Standards Bureau, and O.C.E.C. became the Economic Crimes Unit. In 2010, as part of further organizational development, this unit evolved into the Financial Crimes Unit.
In 2012, the Financial Crimes Unit expanded to include an Insurance Fraud Division. The Insurance Fraud Division is partially funded through a grant from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor, and works closely with that Office in identifying, investigating and prosecuting appropriate cases.
In 2015, the Financial Crimes Unit expanded even further to include an Intellectual Property (Counterfeiting) Division. The Division is partially funded through a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance and its goal is to investigate and prosecute this ever-growing crime.
In 2016, the Financial Crimes Unit concluded several notable cases, including the following:
State v. David LaCarriere — LaCarriere, a truck driver, was convicted and sentenced to five years in New Jersey State Prison for a cargo heist committed on Christmas Day 2014. The defendant conspired to steal approximately $700,000 worth of high-end merchandise from a cargo area at Newark Liberty International Airport. Over $300,000 worth of the merchandise was ultimately recovered near John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
State v. David Dunaway and Paige Hunt (Insurance Fraud) — Defendants pled guilty to filing multiple fraudulent auto insurance claims for damage to a variety of vehicles. The victimized insurance carriers were defrauded out $13,098.49. In total, Dunaway admitted to involvement in 16 separate fraudulent claims with the three female defendants. Most of the schemes involved filing insurance claims for body damage to automobiles that was alleged to have been the result of being keyed by unknown persons. Restitution to the insurance companies was ordered at sentencing.