NEWARK, NJ   – A Union man with businesses in Newark appeared in court Monday 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 is charged by complaint with one count of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. He was arrested on Friday, July 19, and had an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael A. Hammer in Newark federal court. 

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

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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.