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Former Sheriff's Deputy Will Spend Two Years in Prison

Union man sentenced to two years for money laundering proceeds he thought was drug money but turned out to be from an undercover officer.

A former Essex County Sheriff's deputy will spend 24 months in prison for money laundering, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Eric Hawkins, 44, of Union, pleaded guilty previously to money laundering before U.S. District Court Judge Robert Kugler in federal court in Camden.

According to authorities, Hawkins also ran a non-profit business, Urban Community Unification Inc. and agreed to launder money after being approached by a man who claimed to be a broker for a drug dealer who needed money laundered. However, the man posing as a broker turned out to be an undercover officer.

Hawkins agreed to launder cash—what he believed were proceeds of the drug dealer’s drug trafficking business—through Urban Community Unification. Hawkins listed the illicit money as a “donation.”  He accepted $25,000, $35,000, and $20,000 in cash on three separate occasions and laundered the money through his company’s bank account.

Federal officials said Hawkins returned a portion of the cash, less a 5 percent fee he charged for laundering the money. Hawkins also accepted $75,000 in cash that he also agreed to launder through his business.

Besides his prison term, Hawkins was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and fined $10,000.

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman credited agents from the FBI and the IRS and the Essex County Prosecutor's Office with assisting in the investigation of the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney R. Stephen Stigall handled the case, while Rocco C. Cipparone Jr., of Haddon Heights, was the defense attorney for Hawkins.

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