Former Essex County Sheriff’s Officer Sentenced to 15 Months in Prison for Collecting a Debt Through Extortion
NEWARK—A Monmouth County, New Jersey man who formerly worked as a sheriff’s officer in Essex County was sentenced today to 15 months in prison for conspiring to collect a debt using extortionate means, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
John Balsamo, 50, of West Long Branch, New Jersey, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden to an indictment charging him with using threats of violence and economic harm to collect a debt from the victim, an Ocean County, New Jersey construction contractor. Judge Hayden imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Balsamo and conspirators Timothy Kelly, 38, of Jersey City, New Jersey, and Robert C. Bantang, Jr., 45, of Oceanport, New Jersey, used extortionate means in order to collect $50,000 the contractor owed to Kelly from 2009. The 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 cause physical harm to 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 the key could be used to gain access to and cause damage to the site, due to the victim’s failure to fully repay the debt. 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.” Kelly also told the victim that he deserved “a beatin’ just out of f-—kin’ principle.” Balsamo warned that the Old Man wanted to “beat the shit” 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 has been “promoted,” implying that the Old Man now possessed a higher position in organized crime.
Kelly and Bantang previously pleaded guilty in February 2012 to conspiring to collect a debt from the victim using extortionate means, before Judge Hayden. Kelly was sentenced today to three years of probation, including four months of house arrest and 40 hours of community service. Bantang was sentenced to three years of probation.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Hayden sentenced Balsamo to two years of supervised release and ordered him to pay restitution of $2,500 in cash and a Rolex watch he had taken from the victim.
Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford in Newark, and special agents of the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation, under the direction of Executive Director Philip James Degnan, for the investigation leading to today’s sentencings.
The government is represented by Senior Litigation Counsel Leslie F. Schwartz of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crime Unit in Newark.