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Hackettstown man admits to extortion


Posted: May. 30, 2018 12:01 am

A Hackettstown man and former Middlesex County municipal fire inspector who leveraged his father’s murder conviction and alleged mob ties to scare a real estate developer admitted to conspiring to extortion, according to federal prosecutors.

Billy Donnerstag, 49, pleaded guilty on May 15 before federal Judge Madeline Cox Arleo in Newark to conspiracy to commit extortion using threats of force, violence and fear, according to a release from the office of the U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito.

Between December 2016 and June 2017, Donnerstag conspired with Joseph P. Martinelli, 64, of Kenvil, to extort the developer, who was not named in the indictment against Donnerstag and only identified as being located in Middlesex County.

According to the indictment against Donnerstag, the pair told the owner that he or she had not paid for the sale of a property a decade earlier and in an attempt to collect the debt owed, Donnerstag and Martinelli made a “series of threatening statements” in relation to the consequences the owner would face if refusing to pay.

The developer, cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, met several times with each man and ultimately handed over $15,000 in cash provided by the FBI.

While threatening physical harm to get the owner to pay the thousands of dollars to him, Donnerstag says in a legally recorded telephone conversation, “You don’t want to see me … I don’t make myself known a second time. If I have to come to you a second time, it’s not good … I’m being straightforward with you, you don’t want to see me. I’m telling you that. Not in this regard, you don’t want to see me …”

To further explain who he was and how serious he was, the indictment states, Donnerstag tells the owner he has ties to organized crime and says to ask others about his father, Gerald Donnerstag, of Belleville, whom he called “Jerry the Jew.”

According to the indictment, the elder Donnerstag was reportedly connected to organized crime and was convicted of murder in Scranton, Pa., in the 1970s and theft in Essex County.

In May 2007, Martinelli had requested payment on a Middlesex County property that he was planning to sell to the victim for around $2 million. The developer agreed to make a series of payments early in exchange for a discount on the cost of the property, the indictment states.

The agreed sale price was $1.6 million.

In December 2016, Donnerstag began to show up on the property, claiming he was there in his purported role as a fire inspector. He also began calling the developer and making threats, stating that the developer did not pay enough money for the property.

Stating that he doesn’t “care about the laws,” Donnerstag told the victim that he’s “not somebody who’s in the Yellow Pages,” the indictment states.

He also states to the victim that he is “the guy that you don’t want to see” and “a problem for you right now.”

In one recorded phone conversation with Donnerstag, the victim said that the property was sold legally and that Martinelli had agreed to the terms.

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

At the end of the indictment, Martinelli is recorded speaking with the victim during one of several phone conversations.

When asked what the “story” was regarding Donnerstag by the developer, Martinelli states, “The guys in New York. I know when they need something taken care of, they don’t get involved, they call him …”

Donnerstag is the fire inspector for several municipalities in New Jersey, although they were not named in the indictment, and also operated Safety Associates Training Network in Hackettstown. The company installed and serviced fire protection systems.

Donnerstag’s sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 25 and Martinelli’s is scheduled for June 12.

Donnerstag and Martinelli face up to 20 years in state prison and $250,000 in fines.

Lori Comstock can also be reached on Twitter: @LoriComstockNJH, on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/LoriComstockNJH or by phone: 973-383-1194.

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