NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted May 20, 2013
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Municipal Appeal No. 48-2011.
Santo J. Bonanno, attorney for appellant.
Andrew C. Carey, Acting Middlesex County Prosecutor, attorney for respondent (Brian D. Gillet, Special Deputy Attorney General/Acting Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel; Susan L. Berkow, of counsel and on the brief).
Before Judges Ashrafi and Espinosa.
Defendant Hanan Bakhoum appeals from a judgment of the Superior Court, Law Division, finding her guilty on de novo review of a bad check charge prosecuted in the Woodbridge Township Municipal Court. She contends there was insufficient evidence of her guilt and the court violated the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution in ordering her to pay restitution despite her bankruptcy discharge. We affirm.
The evidence at the municipal court trial showed that defendant was the sole shareholder of a corporation that owned a grocery store in Roselle. On or about December 10, 2010, a potential buyer of the business gave defendant a check for $10, 000 as a deposit toward purchasing the store. Defendant deposited the buyer's check into the corporation's checking account with Bank of America on December 13, 2010. The $10, 000 deposit raised the balance of the checking account on that date to $11, 847.30.
According to the testimony of defendant's husband at the trial, the buyer agreed that $5, 000 of the deposit money could be used to replenish inventory in the store before completion of the sale and purchase. However, the corporation's bank statement for December 2010 showed that, within two days of the deposit, $11, 600 was withdrawn from the account in cash, one withdrawal of $1, 800 the same day as the deposit and the second for $9, 800 on the following day, December 14, 2010. From the latter date to the end of the month, the account never had a balance greater than $269.76.
On December 22, 2010, the attorney for defendant's corporation notified the buyer by letter that defendant and her husband were canceling the deal for the sale of the grocery store, and also that the attorney was withdrawing from representing the corporation.
On January 1, 2011, the buyer went to the grocery store and confronted defendant about returning his deposit money. Defendant wrote a check to him for $10, 000 on the corporate account. She back-dated the check to December 7, 2010, and also requested that the buyer not deposit the check until January 3rd. The buyer deposited the check on the latter date, but it was dishonored because of insufficient funds in the account. The buyer returned to the store to demand refund of his deposit, but, according to his testimony at trial, defendant's husband told him defendant had gone to Egypt and he would not be repaid.
The buyer never received a refund of his deposit money. On January 21, 2011, he swore to a criminal complaint against defendant, alleging a violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:21-5, "Bad Checks."
Before she was tried on the bad check charge, defendant filed a petition for bankruptcy in April 2011. The buyer's claim was included in the list of defendant's debts, and the buyer was given notice of a creditors' meeting. He attended the meeting but did not file an objection to the proposed discharge of the debt to him. On June 17, 2011, the federal ...