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Press Release

Union Township Man Charged With Running $400 Million Unlicensed Check Cashing Operation

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. – A Union Township, New Jersey, resident with businesses in Newark will appear in court today on charges that he operated a massive unlicensed check cashing operation that cashed over $400 million in checks, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Fernando Q. Martins, 40, of Union, is charged by complaint with one count of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. He was arrested on Friday, July 19, 2019, and had an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael A. Hammer in Newark federal court. Martins is expected to appear before Judge Hammer at 12:30 p.m. today for a bail hearing.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Since at least 2015, Martins, despite holding no license, operated a scheme in which he cashed checks, mostly from customers in the construction and building trades, for a fee. In total, Martins and those working for him cashed over $400 million in checks. In addition to cashing checks for his customers, Martins also facilitated the scheme by allowing customers to write checks to businesses he controlled. In exchange for their fees, Martins’ customers could avoid the cash being reported on Currency Transaction Reports. This facilitated the customers’ ability to pay off-the-books employees and laborers in cash and avoid payroll and income taxes.

The charge of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business carries a maximum potential penalty of 5 years in prison and a fine of the greater of (1) twice the gross financial gain derived from the offense, (2) twice the loss caused by the offense, or (3) $250,000.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited agents of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge John R. Tafur in Newark, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian Michael in Newark with the investigation leading to the charge against Martins.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney David E. Malagold of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division.

Defense counsel: Chester Keller, Esq.

Updated July 22, 2019

Press Release Number: 19-211