Former NYPD Officer Sentenced to More Than 14 Years in Prison on Extortion and Firearms Charges
Defendant Joined Violent Albanian Crew Targeting Queens Business Owners for Extortion
Earlier today in federal court in Brooklyn, Besnik Llakatura was sentenced by United States District Judge Eric N. Vitaliano to 171 months’ imprisonment, to be followed by a term of five years’ supervised release, for his convictions on two counts of Hobbs Act extortion conspiracy and one count of brandishing a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. The charges relate to the defendant’s participation in two schemes to extort small business owners in Astoria, Queens. At the time of his crimes, Llakatura was an active-duty police officer with the New York City Police Department (NYPD) assigned to the 120th Precinct on Staten Island. Llakatura was suspended without pay upon his arrest in December 2013 and dismissed from the NYPD following his guilty plea in December 2015. The Court also imposed restitution in the amount of $10,000 and forfeiture in the amount of $10,000.
Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and James P. O’Neill, Commissioner, NYPD, announced the sentence.
“In flagrant violation of his sworn duty to serve and protect the community, former police officer Llakatura, along with his criminal partners, used fear, intimidation and threats of violence to demand payment from hard-working citizens who dared to open businesses on their so-called ‘turf’ of Astoria, Queens,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “Today’s sentence drives home the message that no one is above the law and a police officer who commits crimes against the community he serves will be held fully accountable.” Mr. Donoghue extended his grateful appreciation to the members of the Joint Organized Crime Task Force, which includes agents of the FBI and detectives of the NYPD, which led the investigation, as well as the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Division for their cooperation and assistance in the investigation.
“Besnik Llakatura took an oath to serve and protect the citizens of New York City as an officer of the NYPD, while simultaneously pledging his allegiance to a violent organized crime group bent on shaking down local Queens business owners within the Albanian community,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney. “He quickly discovered what happens to those who find themselves on the wrong side of the law, and after his guilty plea, was stripped of his shield of honor. Today’s sentence is a reminder that even those who enforce the rules will still be held to their highest standards.”
According to prior court filings and evidence presented at the trial of co-defendant Dervishaj, between May and November 2013, Llakatura, Dervishaj and Nikolla conspired and attempted to extort a Queens 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, at the time an NYPD officer. Unbeknownst to the victim, Llakatura was already conspiring with Dervishaj and Nikolla in the extortion scheme. Llakatura actively discouraged the victim from reporting the extortion to the police, and warned the victim that Dervishaj would hurt him and 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, 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, each of the three defendants took turns collecting monthly extortion payments totaling $24,000.
During the same time period, Llakatura and his co-defendants also conspired and attempted to extort a proprietor of two social clubs in Astoria. Accompanied by Dervishaj, Nikolla demanded payments of $1,000 per week, once again for “protection.” The victim refused to make the demanded payments and stopped going to his social clubs out of fear for his safety. Court-authorized wiretaps of the defendants’ telephones revealed that all three defendants worked together to locate the victim and force him to pay. In one instance, the defendants confronted a friend of the victim in an effort to find the victim and send him a message. Llakatura and his co-defendants threatened, punched and pulled a gun on the victim’s friend, leaving him with injuries to his face. Upon learning of this assault, the extortion victim fled to a foreign country for a period of time to avoid the defendants’ extortionate threats, and later sold his social clubs.
Co-defendant Redinel Dervishaj, who was convicted of 12 extortion and firearms counts after a three-week trial, was previously sentenced on March 24, 2017 to 57 years’ and one day of imprisonment. Co-defendant Denis Nikolla, who previously pled guilty to three extortion counts and one firearms count, was sentenced on March 10, 2017 to 18 years’ imprisonment.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Organized Crime and Gangs Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Nadia Shihata, Patrick Hein and M. Kristin Mace are in charge of the prosecution.
Residence: Staten Island, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 13-CR-668 (ENV)