ROXBURY, NJ – A 64-year-old Kenvil man busted last year in an FBI sting today admitted he conspired to extort money by threatening violence, said authorities.
The man, Joseph Martinelli, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court, admitting he conspired to commit extortion using threats of force, violence and fear, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO). Martinelli made the plea before U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo in Newark, according to the USAO.
According to the USAO, the incidents took place between December 2016 and June 2017. Authorities said Martinelli conspired with Billy Donnerstag, 49, of Hackettstown, who at the time was a fire inspector for Middlesex Borough and other New Jersey municipalities.
The duo conspired “to extort the owner and operator of a real estate development and construction company, referred to in the information as “Individual 1,” using threats of physical harm if Individual 1 did not pay Martinelli and Donnerstag thousands of dollars,” said the USAO. A copy of the complaint that includes the threats made by Martinelli, can be downloaded here.
It said Martinelli and Donnerstag “agreed that the pretext for demanding money” was an allegation that the real estate development and construction company didn’t pay enough for land it bought from Martinelli in May 2007, said the USAO.
“In a series of telephone and in-person conversations with Individual 1, Martinelli and Donnerstag demanded money from Individual 1 by suggesting that Individual 1 would be physically harmed by Donnerstag if Individual 1 refused,” said the authorities. “Martinelli and Donnerstag obtained $15,000 in cash from Individual 1 over two separate meetings.”
However, the USAO said the men did not know the victim was working with the FBI, which had supplied the $15,000.
Martinelli and Donnerstag were arrested last June. Donnerstag remains charged by indictment, said the USAO.
Martinelli, who will be sentenced June 12, faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, said the USAO.
U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito, in a statement, thanked special agents with the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher in Newark, with the investigation.