Former Middlesex Borough Fire Inspector Gets Prison for Conspiring to Commit Strongarm Extortion

A former fire inspector for Middlesex Borough and other New Jersey municipalities was sentenced today to 34 months in prison for conspiring with another person to commit a strongarm extortion, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced today.

Officials say Billy A. Donnerstag, 50, of Hackettstown, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo to an indictment 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, Donnerstag conspired with Joseph P. Martinelli of Kenvil, New Jersey, to extort the owner and operator of a real estate development and construction company – referred to in the indictment as “Individual 1” – using threats of physical harm if Individual 1 did not pay Donnerstag and Martinelli thousands of dollars. In a series of telephone and in-person conversations with Individual 1, Donnerstag and Martinelli told Individual 1 that, in addition to being a fire inspector for Middlesex Borough, Donnerstag also collected debts. Donnerstag and Martinelli wanted Individual 1 to pay Martinelli, stating that Individual 1 had not paid Martinelli enough money for the sale of a property a decade earlier.

During the course of the conspiracy, both Donnerstag and Martinelli made a series of threatening statements to Individual 1 that the consequences of failing to pay Donnerstag and Martinelli would involve physical harm to Individual 1. Donnerstag told Individual 1:

“if you were in front of me right now, you’d be on the floor. Okay? Cause I don’t talk—I don’t get talked to like that. You don’t know who I am.”

“You need to iron this out with Joe. Again, if, if I have to come meet you now—again, it, it, it, it’d become, it’s gonna be a problem.”

“What I do, is I make sure that people don’t take advantage of other people. Do you understand that? Now I also do other things, but this is one of the things that I do. Now, again if you’re not figuring wh, what my business is by now, you’re either, and again I, I say this with as much respect as I can, either an idiot, or you’re just lying because you don’t want to, to, to understand that I come from somewhere that most people don’t wanna see.”

Ultimately, over two separate meetings (both of which were lawfully recorded), Donnerstag and Martinelli obtained $15,000 in cash from Individual 1. The cash had been provided by the FBI.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Arleo sentenced Donnerstag to three years of supervised release.

According to authorities, Martinelli pleaded guilty before Judge Arleo on March 2nd, to conspiring with Donnerstag to commit extortion and is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 26th.