Over the past several years, the Forfeiture Unit has been using a very effective investigative tool to help identify criminal defendants who are profiting financially from their crimes. FIN CEN (Financial Crimes Enforcement Network) is a computer database of financial records that can be accessed directly from a terminal located in the Essex County Prosecutor’s Official Corruption and Economic Crimes Section and is operated by an Investigator. The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office was among the first in the state to be granted direct access to the FIN CEN system, which is operated by the federal government and overseen by the Attorney General’s Office. Also, in 2000, we were among one of five counties in New Jersey to be invited to join a new anti-money laundering initiative with the federal government (HIFCA).
The use of forfeiture funds obtained by the Prosecutor’s Office is strictly regulated by law. Forfeited monies may only be used for law enforcement purposes as defined by the Attorney General Guidelines. The funds cannot be used to defray normal operating expenses such as salaries, leases, and other regularly incurred expenses. Training expenses, special equipment purchases, and forensic witness fees are examples of permitted forfeiture expenditures.