Federal authorities announced $8.2 million in penalties Tuesday against Saddle River Valley Bank of New Jersey for alleged shortcomings in its anti-money laundering efforts.
The penalties by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey follow a cease-and-desist order against Saddle River Valley Bank in October 2011. Five months later, the $120 million asset bank was sold to Center Bancorp of Union, N.J.
The OCC alleges that between 2009 and April 2011, Saddle River failed to properly monitor its relationships with currency exchange houses in Mexico and the Dominican Republic. During that time, Saddle River processed more than $1.5 billion in wire transfers for four exchange houses, according to the OCC.
More than 190 reports of suspicious activity should have been filed earlier, the agency alleged. Saddle River Valley Bank neither admitted nor denied the OCC's allegations.
In describing the deficiencies in Saddle River's efforts, authorities pointed to longstanding government warnings about the money laundering threat in Mexico.
"It was believed that the proceeds of narcotics sales in the United States were being disproportionately laundered and transferred through banking institutions in Mexico," the New Jersey U.S. Attorney's Office said in a press release Tuesday.
When Center Bancorp purchased Saddle River Valley Bank, it did not assume liabilities related to the OCC's inquiry, according to a Center Bancorp spokesman.
A representative of holding company Saddle River Valley Bancorp, which is responsible for paying the civil money penalty, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Following Center Bancorp's purchase, Saddle River had $9.2 million in assets, which were held by authorities during the investigation. The $8.2 million penalty will be paid out of those funds.
Saddle River also agreed to dissolve its charter, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey.
Founded in 2006 and backed by private equity funding, Saddle River lost money in every quarter it operated.