On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Indictment No. 09-01-0041.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 29, 2012
Before Judges J. N. Harris and Koblitz.
After the judge denied his motion to suppress evidence, defendant Al H. Aly pled guilty to Middlesex County Indictment No. 09-01-00041 charging him and a co-defendant with third-degree financial facilitation of criminal activity, N.J.S.A. 2C:21-25. In exchange for his guilty plea and forfeiture of the $56,000 seized, the State agreed to recommend a non-custodial probationary sentence. Defendant filed a motion to withdraw his plea twelve days later. After the judge denied that motion, in accordance with the plea agreement, defendant was sentenced to five years probation and the funds were forfeited. Defendant appeals from the judgment of conviction entered by the judge on March 23, 2010. We affirm.
We previously considered the merits of a joint motion to suppress in an appeal pursued by defendant's brother, who was charged in a separate indictment. State v. Mohamed A. Aly, A-5468-09, (App. Div. August 2, 2011). In our prior opinion, we summarized the factual background of this search, which we now incorporate by reference. We further summarize those facts only as necessary for our determination here.
Two undercover New Jersey State Police detectives noticed defendant's car driving up and down in a New Jersey Turnpike rest area on October 24, 2008. Co-defendant Leonard Trujillo entered defendant's car, which was then driven to the rear of a tractor-trailer with Florida license plates. Trujillo exited the car with a bag. Defendant left and Trujillo went to the driver's side of the tractor-trailer.
The detectives stopped Trujillo. Trujillo voluntarily opened the bag for the detectives, who found $56,000 inside. Trujillo admitted he had been paid to transport similar bags to Miami previously.
After Trujillo's arrest, the detectives went to defendant's home. Defendant was arrested when he opened the door. Defendant's mother consented to a search of the home, as did defendant's brother, Mohamed A. Aly. Cocaine and currency were found in Mohamed A. Aly's bedroom, resulting in a charge of possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS). Although charged in separate indictments, the brothers' motion to suppress was heard and denied by the judge on January 6, 2010.
On January 27, 2010, defendant entered a guilty plea, admitting that he gave Trujillo the bag containing $56,000, which had been obtained through an illegal cell phone business and illegal gambling operations. He indicated that his counsel had answered all his questions and that he was satisfied with her representation. He also told the judge that he understood the consequences of his guilty plea. The judge specifically asked him:
Now, because your plea form reflects you're not a citizen of the United States do you understand it is possible that when a noncitizen is convicted of an offense it is possible that the immigration authorities may seek deportation. Do you understand that?
After defendant answered "Yes[,]" the judge went on to state,
This Court has nothing to do with that. It's not part of the plea agreement. It's just my job to confirm that you have talked to [defense counsel] about this, that you're not a citizen and you do understand you may have to go through immigration proceedings but I have nothing to do with that. If I accept this plea . . . it will be up to the ...