Extortion charge filed after alleged affair

A 47-year-old woman has been jailed for allegedly blackmailing a city codes employee by demanding money from him in order to keep their “physical relationship” hidden from his family and supervisor, according to investigators.

Kimberly Carol Hilfirty, of 601 Sheridan St., was taken into custody Wednesday morning and charged by city police Agent Ronald L. Bachman with two misdemeanor counts of theft by extortion.

“She demanded money from the employee in order to keep a sexual affair between the two quiet,” said Chief County Detective William Weber, who assisted with the investigation.

The employee was identified in court papers as Charles Wentzell.

“In his function as a city codes officer, Wentzell went to a city address on three occasions on Jan. 28. One of the residents of the property was Hilfirty, and a relationship developed between the two,” Bachman said in an affidavit.

Weber said Hilfirty and Wentzell met for the first time on that day in late January.

Earlier this month, Hilfirty met with Wentzell at her place of employment downtown, Bachman said.

“She indicated she was having financial problems and told Wentzell that if he did not give her $100, she would go to his wife and employer to report that the two had had sex while he was on duty as a codes officer,” Bachman said.

“Wentzell conceded and paid the $100. He told Hilfirty that he had gotten suspended over the incident and that he had no more money to pay her,” Bachman said.

However, Hilfirty “contacted Wentzell early last week and demanded $500 by 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. He was to bring her the money to her place of employment,” Bachman said.

During the next several days, Hilfirty made calls to Wentzell’s office, leaving messages in which she “reminded him of the deadline or she was going to go to his wife, the mayor and the district attorney,” Bachman added.

Police got involved Monday after Wentzell reported to them that he was “being blackmailed,” Bachman said.

In “a sting operation” that involved a surveillance team of police officers, Wentzell met with Hilfirty outside her place of employment about 10:45 a.m. Wednesday and handed her $465 in an envelope, Weber said.

Hilfirty was arrested immediately after taking the money, Bachman said.

During her arraignment before District Allen P. Page III, Hilfirty began to cry after she realized she was going to jail because she could not post bail. She was committed to the Lycoming County Prison in lieu of $7,500 bail.

Joe Gerardi, the city’s director of Bureau of Codes, said Wentzell remains a city employee but that “the matter was under review.”

Because it is “a criminal investigation, I’m not allowed to comment further at this point,” he said.