Baltimore, Maryland – Clement Robert Mercaldo, Jr., 62, of Timonium, Md., Pleaded guilty last night to federal charges of conspiracy to murder for account and interstate communications with intent to extort, in connection with the extortion and planned murder of a Baltimore County restaurant owner and his partner over a debt.
The guilty plea was announced by the United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner; Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; and Chief Melissa R. Hyatt of the Baltimore County Police Department.
According to his plea agreement and other court documents, Mercaldo loaned more than $ 1 million to a Baltimore County restaurant owner. When the restaurateur couldn’t make the monthly payments, Mercaldo hired a co-conspirator to send threatening messages to the victims and their families in order to extort money. During the plots, Mercaldo paid the co-conspirator to vandalize a victim’s car and set a victim’s house on fire as part of the extortion plot. Later, Mercaldo agreed to pay the co-conspirator to murder one of the victims.
“Clément Mercaldo hired someone to extort and threaten the victims who owed him money, in particular by setting fire to the house where a victim and his family slept and by attempting to assassinate them. The accused then went to great lengths to conceal his role from investigators and attempted to subvert justice by falsely claiming that he was also a victim, ”said Acting United States Prosecutor Jonathan F Lenzner. “This successful lawsuit is yet another example of how our Maryland law enforcement team will never give up on holding criminals like Clement Mercaldo accountable.”
Between 2008 and 2017, Mercaldo, a former restaurateur, loaned the victim more than $ 1 million. The victim reimbursed Mercaldo until 2019, when he was unable to make further payments. As a result, Mercaldo was in significant financial distress, leading him to sell personal effects in order to continue paying his expenses.
Beginning in March 2019, Mercaldo hired a co-conspirator to aid him in his conspiracy to collect the debt through various means of extortion. Mercaldo gave at least $ 1,000 in cash to the co-conspirator in return for agreeing to send threatening messages to the victim and destroy his property, with the intention of pressuring the victim to pay back Mercaldo.
According to Mercaldo’s plea agreement, between March 28 and 29, 2019, the co-conspirator smashed the windows of the victim’s car in his driveway. Immediately before and after the windows were smashed, the co-conspirator used an anonymous texting app to threaten the victim. The messages referred to a debt and threatened the victim’s wife. In the early days of April 2019, the co-conspirator also made victim calls in which he took responsibility for breaking windows and then threatened the victim’s wife.
In order to cover up his role in the extortion, Mercaldo traveled to Florida just before March 28, 2019, returning on March 29.e, when he provided the co-conspirator with another cash payment. On April 10, 2019, at Mercaldo’s request, the co-conspirator, using the same number used to contact the victim, sent Mercaldo a message falsely claiming to be from someone in Delaware who was attempting to collect money. money and threatened Mercaldo’s son. Mercaldo asked the co-conspirator to send this message so that Mercaldo can show it to the police when questioned about the victim’s broken windows and other threats.
On April 12, 2019, Mercaldo was questioned by a detective from the Baltimore County Police Department, regarding the destruction of property at the victim’s residence. Mercaldo falsely told the detective that he too had received threatening messages from someone identifying himself as “Robin”. Mercaldo then showed the detective the fake message the co-conspirator had sent him two days earlier, which included a screenshot of Mercaldo’s son playing lacrosse at his high school. Mercaldo also provided detectives with a fake story about his victim loan, claiming he got the money he loaned the victim from an anonymous person in Michigan, who loaned the money to Mercaldo at a high interest rate, and that Mercaldo was paying that person. in cash on the first of the month after receiving an anonymous text message indicating the meeting place for the transaction. In addition, Mercaldo told the detective that he returned from Florida on March 29, 2019 to find that his Mercedes’ windshield had also been smashed, although he did not report it to the police. Mercaldo said he believed his broken windshield was related to the victim’s broken windshield. In truth, Mercaldo’s windshield was damaged by a stone from another car and was repaired on March 14, 2019, two weeks before the victim’s car was vandalized.
From April 2019 to July 2019, Mercaldo withdrew large sums of money from his bank account, which he paid to the co-conspirator. For example, on April 26, 2019, May 7, 2019, and May 15, 2019, Mercaldo withdrew a total of $ 4,000 in cash from his bank account in Maryland, and between May 3 and July 19, the co- conspirator deposited $ 2,514 in his Account. The purpose of the payments was for the co-conspirator to set fire to the victim’s home.
Under Mercaldo’s leadership, in the wee hours of Sunday, August 4, 2019, the co-conspirator set fire to the victim’s home. While the victim and his wife slept upstairs, the co-conspirator smashed a back window in the basement of the house and ignited a flammable liquid. The victim and his wife were awoken by smoke detectors and escaped the blaze with the family cat. Although no injuries were sustained by family or emergency responders, the fire caused significant damage to the residence and destroyed much of the victim’s personal property. As a result of the damage, the victim and his wife were forced to leave their home and live elsewhere. In the days immediately following the arson attack, Mercado withdrew $ 1,500 in cash from his bank account and turned it over to the co-conspirator, who deposited $ 1,290 in cash into his account.
In August and September 2019, the co-conspirator sent numerous threatening text messages from anonymous texting apps to the victim and his business partner. The messages showed that they were being followed. The threats referred to a debt and many messages threatened to harm the victims and their families. Mercaldo continued to ask the co-conspirator to send threatening messages and on October 22, 2019, the business partner received the message: “This is the third check you and your partner gave me, I spoke to him. and he gave me your address. saying you were stealing it and i was doing what i need to do to get my money, he even gave me pictures of your wife and kids.
On October 26, 2019, the co-conspirator arranged to receive a cash payment from the business partner using the anonymous texting app. The payment was noted and recorded by the police. Immediately after receiving the money, the co-conspirator bought an Apple Watch and deposited the money into his account. The co-conspirator and Mercaldo then texted for several days about this payment, with Mercaldo saying victims told him a payment was made to the co-conspirator and the co-conspirator repeatedly denied having received money from victims.
From October 29, 2019 and until at least the end of January 2020, Mercaldo and the co-conspirator began discussing “plan b” – the murder of one or both victims for their lack of payment. For example, on November 3, 2019, Mercaldo texted the co-conspirator, “Hope you kick his ass! On November 8, 2019, Mercaldo texted the co-conspirator, “Nail em plz !!” In January 2020, the co-conspirator carried out surveillance at the residences and businesses of the victims, taking pictures and videos and during some of the videos he recounted how he planned to track and attack the victim. During two of the videos, the co-conspirator is seen holding two different handguns in his vehicle during surveillance. The co-conspirator sent these videos and images to Mercaldo as attachments to numerous text messages, during and immediately after numerous surveillance incidents. Mercaldo and the co-conspirator continued to communicate on victims and debt until March 2020 and until May 30, 2020.
Mercaldo was arrested on June 23, 2020 and remains in detention.
The arson attack at the victim’s home in August 2019 caused damage estimated at $ 302,774.89 to the home and its contents, and a loss to the insurance company of $ 353,340.66 as a direct result of the ‘fire.
Mercaldo faces a maximum of 10 years in federal prison for conspiracy to murder for account and a maximum of 20 years in federal prison for interstate communications with intent to extortion. U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander has sentencing September 28, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.
Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner commended the FBI and the Baltimore County Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr Lenzner thanked Assistant US Attorney Paul E. Budlow, who is pursuing the case.
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