Thursday, May 17, 2012

Former Essex County Sheriff’s Officer Indicted for Using Extortion to Help Collect a Debt

NEWARK—A former Essex County sheriff’s officer was charged today in connection with his alleged role in using threats of violence to collect a debt owed to another man, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

A federal grand jury Indictment unsealed today charges John Balsamo, 48, of West Long Branch, New Jersey, with conspiring to collect a debt and collecting a debt using extortionate means. He was arrested this morning at his residence by special agents of the FBI and is scheduled to make an initial appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael A. Shipp in Newark federal court.

According to documents filed in this case:

Balsamo and his co-conspirators, Timothy Kelly, 36, of Jersey City, New Jersey; and Robert C. Bantang, Jr., 43, of Oceanport, New Jersey, used threats of violence and economic harm to the victim, an Ocean County construction contractor, and others in order to collect $50,000 the victim owed to Kelly from 2009. The co-conspirators made the victim believe that the money he had borrowed from Kelly was owed to the “Old Man,” a member of organized crime who would hurt the victim if the debt was not paid. Balsamo also displayed a key to a construction site where the victim was working in Brick, New Jersey and warned that it could be used to gain access to the site. Balsamo and Kelly sent Bantang to the construction site on three occasions to deliver threats purportedly on behalf of the Old Man.

On March 24, 2011, Balsamo and Kelly went to the Brick construction site, which was now a completed restaurant, to confront the victim. Kelly told the victim that if he had brought his “boys” that it would have gotten “done right in here, right in this place, right like this, in front of everybody...and your wife gets it, too.” Balsamo warned that the Old Man wanted to “beat the s—t” out of the restaurant owner due to the victim’s failure to repay the debt, which Balsamo and Kelly now stated had grown to $70,000. Balsamo also advised the victim that the Old Man had been “promoted,” implying that he now possessed a higher position in organized crime.

During the course of the conspiracy, Balsamo received a Rolex watch and $2,500 in cash from the victim towards payment of the debt.

Kelly and Bantang previously pleaded guilty in February 2012 to conspiring to collect a debt from the victim using extortionate means, before U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden.

Balsamo faces a maximum potential penalty per count of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward in Newark; and special agents of the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation, under the direction of Executive Director Phillip James Degnan.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Leslie F. Schwartz of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.

The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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