U.S. Attorney's Office
Eastern District of Pennsylvania
(215) 861-8200
December 2, 2015

Philadelphia Check Cashing Agency and One Owner Charged with Money Laundering

PHILADELPHIA—Cottman Check Cashing, LP, located in Philadelphia, PA, and Steven Kessler, 50, of Cherry Hill, NJ, one of Cottman’s owners, were charged by indictment, unsealed today, with eight counts of aiding and abetting aggravated structuring of financial transactions, announced United States Attorney Zane David Memeger. Kessler was also charged with conspiring to structure financial transactions.

According to the indictment, between 2009 and 2011, Kessler conspired with a sports bookmaker, Jerold Cohen, charged elsewhere, to help the bookmaker cash 76 checks from one of his bettors, totaling approximately $670,000, without triggering a report that would have to be provided to the U.S. government. Kessler allegedly helped Cohen cash those checks at Cottman Check Cashing.

According to the indictment, Cohen obtained the 76 checks from a single bettor to settle the bettor’s losses. Cohen allegedly knew that a report would have to be filed with the government if he cashed any check over $10,000. To conceal the nature of his business and the total amount of his income, Cohen allegedly directed the bettor to write the checks in amounts just under $10,000. The bettor did as he was instructed and, because he was often in debt in an amount that far exceeded $10,000, the bettor would provide Cohen with several checks at one time, each for an amount just under $10,000. Cohen then took those checks to Cottman Check Cashing to be cashed because of his longtime friendship with Kessler. It is alleged that Cohen knew Kessler would help him by cashing the checks so as to avoid triggering a report that must be filed with the government when a cash transaction is over $10,000. Kessler’s alleged assistance included cashing the checks himself, failing to keep business records of most of the transactions, and making Cottman Check Cashing available to perform the money laundering. The indictment charges that the structured transactions were part of a pattern of illegal activity involving transactions of more than $100,000 in a 12-month period.

If convicted, Kessler faces up to 85 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine, a $900 special assessment, and criminal forfeiture of up to $670,175. Cottman Check Cashing faces supervised release, a fine, an $800 special assessment, and criminal forfeiture of up to $670,175.

The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Nancy E. Potts.

An Indictment is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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