Saturday, February 22 2020

Financial Crimes Unit

The Financial Crimes Unit of the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office was created in December 2010 and is responsible for the intake, review and screening of the majority of economic crime complaints and investigations, including, but not limited to, non-sex-based computer crimes, consumer fraud, counterfeit goods and trademark infringement cases, estate and trust fraud, health care claims fraud, Internet fraud, mortgage and loan modification fraud, money laundering, welfare fraud and other embezzlement and identity theft cases.

This unit, which is comprised of an assistant prosecutor, a detective, a prosecutor’s agent, and an administrative assistant, serves as the principal point-of-contact for all of the local, state and federal agencies that are investigating these types of crimes, as well as directly with the victims and financial institutions impacted by same. If after initial intake of an inquiry or a complaint an investigation is deemed to be a “financial crime,” then the individuals in the Financial Crimes Unit are responsible for issuing Grand Jury subpoenas, conducting interviews, and analyzing and reviewing any financial records or documents associated with a particular investigation – whether it was worked exclusively or jointly with another agency. In most instances, Financial Crimes Unit cases involve a multitude of victims, significant amounts of money, or both, and often require coordination with multiple agencies.

In addition to receiving cases and investigations pre- and post-complaint for review, the Financial Crimes Unit reviews all of the electronic, telephonic and paper complaints referred to the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office via the Attorney General’s Office, Divisions of Criminal Justice and Consumer Affairs, and the Burlington County Board of Social Services. The Financial Crimes Unit also fields all of the electronic referrals from the Internet Crime Complaint Center, which is an Internet site sponsored by the FBI and serves as an online clearing house for Internet fraud complaints. If a victim, suspect, or witness of such a complaint has any connection to Burlington County, it will be sent to the Financial Crimes Unit.

SIGNIFICANT CASES PROSECUTED IN 2018

STATE v. BRIAN MURPHY

The defendant, who resides on Wharton Place in Hainesport, NJ, was employed as a financial planner with Murphy Financial Advisors in Moorestown, New Jersey. In that fiduciary capacity, the defendant misappropriated $890,000 from one of his clients. The investigation revealed that from March 2011 until July 2016, Murphy used these funds to pay for personal and business expenses instead of investing the money provided to him by the client. More specifically, the stolen funds were used to cover, among other things, expenses at a local country club, a private school, established retail organizations, lending institutions, an automobile dealer and an attorney. The investigation also determined that Murphy underreported his taxable income in 2012, 2014 and 2015 and failed to file a New Jersey tax return in 2013. This case was investigated in cooperation with the New Jersey Department of Treasury, Office of Criminal Investigations.

On September 27, 2017, the defendant pleaded guilty to an Accusation charging 2nd degree Misapplication of Entrusted Property and 3rd degree Failure to Pay NJ Income Taxes. On January 10, 2018, the defendant was sentenced to an aggregate term of incarceration of seven years in New Jersey state prison before the Honorable Christopher J. Garrenger, J.S.C. As part of defendant’s sentence, he is required to make full restitution to the victim upon release from custody.

STATE v. WILLIAM DIAZ, ELAINE TAYLOR, et al.

The defendants, who reside in Elizabeth and East Orange respectively, were involved in an identity theft/loan fraud ring that spanned multiple counties (Burlington, Camden, Essex, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth and Union) in New Jersey and throughout Pennsylvania. The Burlington County cases originated out of Palmyra Borough and Burlington City, but the investigation subsequently revealed criminal conduct with a nexus to Cinnaminson Township, Pennsauken Township, Sayreville Borough, West Long Branch Borough, Edison Township, Princeton Township, Linden City, Old Bridge Township, Piscataway Township, Elizabeth City and East Orange City. The losses to multiple financial institutions was approximately $175,000 along with another $350,000 in attempted thefts. This case was investigated in cooperation with the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office.

On September 28, 2017, a Burlington County Grand Jury returned a thirty-seven count indictment charging a multitude of theft and fraud counts.

On January 5, 2018, defendant Taylor pleaded guilty to 2nd degree Conspiracy to Commit Theft by Deception. On February 2, 2018, defendant Taylor was sentenced to a five (5) year period of Special Drug Court Probation.

On January 12, 2018, defendant Diaz pleaded guilty to 2nd degree Theft by Deception but passed away on January 13, 2018.

STATE v. JOSEPH FREED III

The defendant, who resides on North Coles Avenue in Maple Shade, NJ, was the long-time chief of the Maple Shade Township First Aid Squad. In that capacity, the defendant misappropriated $118,345.50 of the First Aid Squad’s monies. The investigation revealed that from April of 2010 and February 2017, the defendant had been making unauthorized cash withdrawals from the Squad’s account, over which he had exclusive control, and used the money to pay personal bills and to fund other personal expenses. This case was investigated in cooperation with the Maple Shade Township Police Department.

On March 29, 2018, the defendant pleaded guilty to a single-count indictment charging 2nd degree Theft by Deception.

On June 21, 2018, the defendant was sentenced to a three-year period of incarceration in New Jersey state prison before the Hon. Charles A. Delehey, J.S.C. The defendant paid full restitution to the Squad before sentencing.

STATE v. GUISEPPE CAIRA

The defendant, who resides on Bainbridge Drive in Mullica Hill, NJ, is a licensed home improvement contractor. In that capacity, the defendant utilized funds given to him by a Moorestown couple and a resident of Lumberton for their respective home improvement projects for his own purposes. The investigation revealed the defendant spent significant amounts of money (approximately $250,000) on his then girlfriend, trips and luxury items unconnected to the business during the relevant time period. As a result of Caira’s diversion of funds, the victims had to incur significant additional expenditures (alleging $100,000+) to complete their construction projects.

On June 25, 2018, the defendant pleaded guilty to multiple indictments charging Theft by Deception and Theft by Failure to Make Required Disposition of Property Received. The defendant also consolidated several cases from Atlantic, Gloucester and Ocean Counties for disposition in Burlington County.

On July 23, 2018, the defendant was sentenced to a five-year period of Special Drug Court probation before the Honorable Christopher Garrenger, J.S.C. As part of his sentence, the defendant is required to make restitution to his victims.

STATE v. DONNA BUCIA

The defendant, who resides on Main Avenue in Cherry Hill, was the bookkeeper/Office Manager for the Riverton Country Club. In that capacity, Bucia misappropriated $190,909.40 in cash and was able to conceal the thefts by depositing third-party checks (e.g. RIP checks, Cobra checks, etc.) in lieu of the cash. This case was investigated in cooperation with the New Jersey Department of Treasury, Office of Criminal Investigations. On July 17, 2017, this matter was resolved pre-indictment by way of a guilty plea to an Accusation charging third degree Theft by Deception and third degree Failure to Pay state income taxes, with a recommended sentence of probation conditioned upon 364 days in the Burlington County Jail.

On September 21, 2018, the defendant was sentenced pursuant to the negotiated plea agreement before the Hon. Philip E. Haines, J.S.C. The defendant paid the entire restitution amount prior to sentencing.

STATE v. SARAH COON

The defendant, who resides on Buckingham Drive in Southampton (formerly Lumberton Twp.), was charged with misappropriating approximately $900,000 from her former employer, Paul Davis Restoration (PDR). Sarah Coon was the bookkeeper/Office Manager for the business and diverted cash, paid personal and business American Express (AMEX) accounts with PDR funds and fraudulently obtained gasoline fleet cards with Wawa to fuel personal vehicles. This case was investigated in cooperation with the New Jersey Department of Treasury, Office of Criminal Investigations.

On October 1, 2017, the defendant Sarah Coon pleaded guilty to second degree Theft by Deception and third degree Failure to Pay state income taxes.

On November 19, 2018, the defendant was sentenced to an aggregate sentence of five years in New Jersey state prison before the Hon. Philp E. Haines, J.S.C. As part of her sentence, the defendant is required to pay $438,000 in restitution for all AMEX usage and to file amended NJ Tax Returns upon her release from custody.

Additionally, the Financial Crimes Unit has either taken the lead on, worked jointly with, or is currently working investigations with the following agencies:

FEDERAL AGENCIES AND ENTITIES

  • United States Attorney’s Office (Newark and Camden Field Offices)
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • United States Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
  • United States Department of the Treasury
  • Department of Homeland Security, Immigrations & Custom Enforcement
  • United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS)
  • United States Department of Agriculture
  • United States Secret Service (USSS)
  • Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General (New York Office)
  • Office of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
  • National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C)

 STATE AND COUNTY AGENCIES

  • Burlington County Office of Consumer Affairs
  • Burlington County Board of Social Services
  • New Jersey Department of the Treasury, Division of Taxation
  • New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness
  • New Jersey Department of Human Services
  • New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, Division of Criminal Justice
  • New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, Division of Consumer Affairs
  • New York City Police Department, Financial Crimes Unit
  • Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, Economic Crimes Unit
  • Philadelphia Police Department
  • Pennsylvania State Police

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