CORRECTED-U.S. punishes New Jersey bank for money-laundering violations
(Deletes reference to Center Bancorp Inc in 1st paragraph; corrects attribution in 7th paragraph to FinCEN from OCC)
Sept 24 (Reuters) - Saddle River Valley Bank, a defunct New Jersey lender, will pay $8.2 million to settle charges that it violated federal anti-money-laundering laws over its dealings with customers in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, federal authorities said on Tuesday.
The payment resolves charges that, from June 2009 to May 2011, Saddle River violated the federal Bank Secrecy Act by processing $1.5 billion of wire transfers on behalf of four "casas de cambio" without properly monitoring for money laundering or timely reporting of suspicious activities.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has identified casas de cambio, or currency exchange houses, as a major money laundering threat related to the movement of drug proceeds to Mexico. Authorities said Saddle River served three such entities in Mexico and one in the Dominican Republic.
Saddle River's payment was announced by U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman in New Jersey, as well as the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC).
"It's pretty remarkable that a small community bank in suburban New Jersey was attracting more than a billion dollars in transactions with customers in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, and nobody thought it was too good to be true," FinCEN Director Jennifer Shasky Calvery said in a statement.
Saddle River ceased operations last year, and most of its assets were acquired in August 2012 by Union Center National Bank, a unit of Center Bancorp Inc in Union, New Jersey.
FinCEN said the $8.2 million payment represents the majority of Saddle River's remaining assets.
A spokeswoman for Center Bancorp had no immediate comment. A lawyer for Saddle River did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The case is U.S. v. $4,100,000 in United States Currency, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey, No. 13-05669. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by James Dalgleish)
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