NEWARK, N.J. – A Monmouth County, N.J., man admitted today to conspiring to collect a debt using extortionate means, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
John Balsamo, 49, of West Long Branch, N.J., 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, N.J., construction contractor.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Balsamo and conspirators Timothy Kelly, 37, of Jersey City, N.J., and Robert C. Bantang, Jr., 44, of Oceanport, N.J., 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, N.J., 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.
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.
The two men are scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 10, 2013.
Balsamo faces a maximum potential penalty per count of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 8, 2013.
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 N.J., State Commission of Investigation, under the direction of Executive Director Philip James Degnan, for the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.
The government is represented by Senior Litigation Counsel Leslie F. Schwartz of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crime Unit in Newark.