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Press Release

Morris County, New Jersey, Man Sentenced To One Year In Prison For 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 was sentenced today to 12 months and one day in prison for 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, 65, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo to an information charging him with conspiring to commit extortion using threats of force, violence, and fear. Judge Arleo imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.

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. Donnerstag previously pleaded guilty and was sentenced on Oct. 23, 2018, to 34 months in prison.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Arleo sentenced Martinelli to three years of supervised release, one year of which will be home incarceration.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents with the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing.

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.

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

Updated December 19, 2018

Press Release Number: 18-447