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State v. Tillem

Decided: March 29, 1974.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
GERALD TILLEM, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Halpern, Matthews and Bischoff. The opinion of the court was delivered by Halpern, P.J.A.D.

Halpern

Following a jury trial defendant was convicted of engaging in the business of "loan sharking," in violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:119A-3. He was also convicted, at the same trial, on seven counts of "loan sharking" representing seven illegal loans made to four different individuals over a 2 1/2-year period, wherein the annual rate of interest charged was between 200 and 300%, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:119A-1. He was sentenced on the latter seven charges to consecutive 2-3-year State Prison terms, and on the former charge to a State Prison term of 10-15 years, to be served consecutively to the sentences imposed on the seven charges. In all, he was given State Prison sentences totalling 24-36 years.

Before considering the issues raised on this appeal, we pause to point out that defendant neither testified nor called any witnesses in his defense, and we find the uncontradicted proofs of the State amply supported the convictions.

I

CONSTITUTIONALITY OF N.J.S.A. 2A:119A-3

Defendant argues that N.J.S.A. 2A:119A-3 is unconstitutional because of vagueness, in that "it does not spell out the degree or details of 'engaging in the business' of making loans." The statute provides:

2A:119A-3. Business of making prohibited loans or forbearances; penalty

Any person who engages in the business of making loans or forbearances prohibited by section 1 of this act, or who conspires so to do, shall be guilty of a high misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000.00, or by imprisonment for not more than 25 years, or both.

The contention is without merit. Reading, as we must, N.J.S.A. 2A:119A-1 through 2A:119A-4 as a whole statutory scheme to prevent and punish the crime of loan sharking, we are satisfied that men of common intelligence do not

have to guess at the legislative meaning or differ as to the application of the term "engages in the business of making [illegal] loans." State v. Joas, 34 N.J. 179, 185 (1961). The four sections of the loan sharking statutes must be considered as a homogeneous and consistent whole, giving effect to all their provisions. State v. Green, 62 N.J. 547, 554-555 (1973). Giving the statutory words their common, ordinary, common-sense construction, they can be defined as meaning one who carries on an enterprise, a business or a profession for profit or improvement over a period of time, as distinguished from one who commits or occasionally participates in a single act or transaction. See Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1969), 751; Black's Law Dictionary, (4 ed. 1951), 622; 58 C.J.S. Money Lenders ยง 1 at 852-853 (1948); Fleckenstein Brothers' Co. v. Fleckenstein, 66 N.J. Eq. 252, 256-257 (Ch. 1904).

The trial judge in clear and plain language defined the term to the jury thusly:

Now, what does the statute mean by someone who engages in the business of making loans? What do we mean by business? Well, business as used in the statute pertains in a very broad sense to all gainful activity. A business could be called occupation or ...


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