Defendant Convicted At Trial For His Involvement In Multiple Queens Extortion Schemes Carried Out With New York City Police Officer
Yesterday, following two and a half weeks of trial, a federal jury in Brooklyn, New York, returned a guilty verdict against Redinel Dervishaj, on Hobbs Act extortion conspiracy, attempted extortion, threatening/committing physical violence in furtherance of an extortion plan, and related charges involving brandishing firearms. The charges arose out of the defendant’s schemes to extort three small business owners in Queens, New York. When sentenced by United States District Judge Eric N. Vitaliano, the defendant faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a mandatory minimum of 57 years in prison. Co-defendants Besnik Llakatura, a police officer with the New York City Police Department during the charged crimes, and Denis Nikolla previously pleaded guilty in this case and are awaiting sentencing.
The verdict was announced by Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Diego Rodriguez, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office, and William J. Bratton, Commissioner, New York Police Department.
“Through fear, intimidation and threats of violence, Dervishaj and his co-defendants demanded payment from local business owners in Astoria, Queens, for so-called protection,” stated United States Attorney Capers. “When the victims refused to pay, the defendants escalated their efforts to secure payment, brazenly threatening the business owners with firearms. Yesterday, Dervishaj was held accountable for the harm he caused and the fear he engendered.”
“Dervishaj’s tactics of fear, intimidation, and violence will work no more. Yesterday, he was convicted by a jury on charges relating to his role in extorting small business owners in Queens for payments for so-called protective services. The FBI thanks our law enforcement partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York for their work on this case,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Rodriguez.
“The defendant faces a minimum sentence of more than a half-century in prison, which should serve to discourage others from attempting to use intimidation and threats of violence to bilk legitimate businesspeople,” stated New York Police Commissioner Bratton.
As proven at trial, between May and November 2013, Dervishaj and his co-defendants conspired and attempted to extort a Queens restaurant owner, demanding regular payments in exchange for so-called protection. The extortion began shortly after the victim opened a restaurant in Astoria when he was visited by Dervishaj and told that he had opened a business in “our neighborhood.” As a result, the restaurant owner was required to pay Dervishaj $4,000 per month. He then sought help from Besnik Llakatura, whom the restaurant owner believed was his friend. Unbeknownst to him, Llakatura, an NYPD officer in Staten Island since 2006, was conspiring with Dervishaj in the extortion and actively discouraged the restaurant owner from going to the police. Llakatura sought to persuade the victim that he had no choice but to make the demanded payments, warning him that Dervishaj and his associates would physically harm him if he did not pay. When the victim resisted, at Dervishaj’s direction co-conspirator Denis Nikolla threatened the victim with physical violence and chased him at gunpoint down a street in Queens. Over the course of five months, each of the three defendants took turns collecting monthly payments from the victim, ultimately collecting $24,000 in so-called protection money.
Between April 2012 and November 2013, Dervishaj and Nikolla also conspired and attempted to extort the proceeds of two nightclubs located in Queens, New York, and used a firearm in their efforts to do so. After the nightclub owner failed to make the demanded payments, on September 20, 2012, Dervishaj and Nikolla confronted the victim at a bar in Astoria; Nikolla took a firearm from Dervishaj’s waistband and pressed it to the victim’s ribs, threatening to beat him in front of his wife and children and, threatening to beat his wife and children in front of him.
Finally, during 2013, Dervishaj and his co-defendants conspired and attempted to extort a proprietor of two social clubs in Astoria. After the initial extortion demand, the proprietor refused to make the payments and ceased going to his social clubs out of fear for his safety. Thereafter, the defendants attempted to locate the proprietor and threaten him. In one instance, Dervishaj threatened and repeatedly punched a friend of the victim, while a co-conspirator pulled a gun on him. The victim ultimately fled the country for a period of time to avoid the defendants’ threats.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Organized Crime and Gangs Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Nadia Shihata and Patrick Hein are in charge of the prosecution.
Queens, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 13-CR-668 (ENV)