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Press Release

Morris County, New Jersey, Man Admits Conspiring To Commit Strong-Arm Extortion

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. – A Kenvil, New Jersey, man today admitted conspiring with a former Middlesex Borough fire inspector to use threats of violence to extort cash payments from the owner of a real estate development company, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Joseph P. Martinelli, 64, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo in Newark federal court to an information charging him with conspiring to commit extortion using threats of force, violence, and fear. 

According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

From December 2016 through June 2017, Martinelli conspired with Billy A. Donnerstag, 49, of Hackettstown, New Jersey, then a fire inspector for Middlesex Borough and other New Jersey municipalities, 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.

Martinelli and Donnerstag agreed that the pretext for demanding money would be that Individual 1 supposedly didn’t pay enough for a property he bought from Martinelli in 2007. 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.

Martinelli and Donnerstag obtained $15,000 in cash from Individual 1 over two separate meetings. The cash had been provided by the FBI.

The count of conspiracy to commit extortion carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for June 12, 2018.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents with the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher in Newark, with the investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee M. Cortes Jr., Deputy Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.

Donnerstag remains charged by indictment. The charge and allegations against him are merely accusations, and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. 

Defense counsel: Brian N. DiGiacomo Esq., Madison, New Jersey

Updated March 2, 2018

Public Corruption
Press Release Number: 18-082