Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Maryland man pleads to conspiracy, extortion related to loan

BALTIMORE — A Baltimore County man has pleaded guilty to charges related to the extortion of a restaurant owner and his partner over an unpaid loan, which led to a house fire and plans for murder.

Clement Robert Mercaldo, Jr., 62, of Timonium, entered a plea agreement in Maryland federal court, according to court documents.

Sentencing before U.S. District Judge Ellen Hollander, who also heard the plea Thursday, is set for late next month on counts of murder-for-hire conspiracy and interstate communications with intent to extort.

Mercaldo hired a co-conspirator to threaten victims and their families, even going so far to pay his cohort to set fire to a victim’s house, according to a legal statement attached to the plea deal details. The victim and his wife escaped the August 2019 house fire, which caused over $300,000 in damages. Mercaldo also later agreed to pay the co-conspirator to murder one of the victims. The killing did not happen.

Mercaldo “then went to great lengths to conceal his role from investigators and tried to subvert justice by falsely claiming that he was a victim, too,” Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan Lenzner said in a news release. Mercaldo was arrested in June 2020 and remains jailed.

Mercaldo, a former restaurant owner, loaned over $1 million to the other restauranteur between 2008 and 2017. Threats began in 2019 when the victim was unable to make repayments. Mercaldo was in significant financial distress, causing him to sell personal belongings to pay expenses, according to the signed statement.