Photo Courtesy of DOJ
By Forum Staff
The head of a violent Albanian crew on Friday was sentenced to 57 years and one day of imprisonment for three counts of extortion conspiracy, three counts of attempted extortion, three counts of threatening physical violence in furtherance of an extortion plan, and three counts of brandishing a firearm in connection with the crimes, according to the Justice Department.
The charges relate to Redinel Dervishaj’s participation in three schemes to extort small business owners in Astoria. His co-defendants Denis Nikolla and Besnik Llakatura, a police officer with the NYPD on Staten Island at the time of the crimes, previously pled guilty. Nikolla was sentenced on March 10 to 18 years’ imprisonment. Llakatura is awaiting his fate.
According to court filings and evidence presented at trial, between May and November 2013, Dervishaj, Llakatura and Nikolla conspired and attempted to extort a restaurant owner, demanding monthly payments in exchange for so-called “protection.” Shortly after the victim opened a restaurant in Astoria, Dervishaj demanded $4,000 per month because the victim had opened it in “our neighborhood.” The victim sought help from his friend Llakatura, who at the time was a City cop working in the 120th Precinct. Unbeknownst to him, Llakatura was already conspiring with Dervishaj and Nikolla in the extortion. Llakatura actively discouraged the victim from reporting the extortion to the police and warned the victim that Dervishaj, 40, would hurt him. Llakatura added that Dervishaj had ties to dangerous Albanian organized crime figures, including his brother Plaurent Dervishaj, at the time Albania’s most wanted fugitive. When the victim failed to make the demanded payments, Nikolla – accompanied by Dervishaj – threatened him on a public street in Queens and chased him at gunpoint, ready to fire, before the victim managed to escape in his car. Shortly thereafter, Dervishaj called the victim and told him that he “got lucky this time.” Over the course of five months, Dervishaj, Llakatura, and Nikolla took turns collecting monthly extortion payments totaling $24,000.
Additionally, In April 2012, the three defendants attempted to extort $400 a week from the owner of two borough nightclubs. After he refused to pay, Nikolla stuck a gun in the owner’s ribs, and informed him that if he wasn’t paid, Nikolla would come to the owner’s house and beat him up in front of his wife and children.
Also in 2013, Dervishaj, Nikolla, and Llakatura conspired and attempted to extort the owner of two Astoria social clubs. Nikolla made the initial extortion demand, seeking payments of $1,000 per week from the proprietor for “protection.” The owner refused to make the demanded payments and ceased going to his social clubs out of fear for his safety.
Court-authorized wiretaps of the defendants’ telephones revealed evidence of the extortion conspiracy and the crooks’ attempts to locate the victim. In one instance, according to the U.S. Attorney, all three threatened, punched, and pulled a gun on a friend of the victim in an effort to make the friend locate the victim. The victim ultimately fled to a foreign country for a period of time to avoid the threats.