Leader Of Violent Albanian Extortion Crew Targeting Astoria Business Owners Sentenced To 57 Years In Prison
Defendant Conspired with Active-Duty New York City Police Officer in Extortion Schemes
Earlier today, Redinel Dervishaj was sentenced before Judge Eric N. Vitaliano in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York to 57 years and one day of imprisonment for three counts of Hobbs Act extortion conspiracy, three counts of attempted Hobbs Act extortion, three counts of threatening physical violence in furtherance of an extortion plan, and three counts of brandishing a firearm in connection with these crimes of violence. The charges relate to the defendant’s participation in three schemes to extort small business owners in Astoria, Queens. Dervishaj was convicted after a three-week trial in April 2016. Co-defendants Denis Nikolla and Besnik Llakatura, a police officer with the New York City Police Department at the time of the crimes, previously pled guilty. Nikolla was sentenced on March 10, 2017 to 18 years’ imprisonment. Llakatura is awaiting sentencing.
The sentence was announced by Bridget M. Rohde, Acting 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, and James P. O’Neill, Commissioner, New York City Police Department.
According to court filings and evidence presented at trial, between May and November 2013, Dervishaj, Llakatura 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 in Staten Island. 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 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, each of the three defendants took turns collecting monthly extortion payments totaling $24,000.
Between April 2012 and November 2013, Dervishaj and Nikolla also conspired and attempted to extort a businessman who had opened a new nightclub in Astoria. Nikolla approached this victim with an extortion demand and told him that other businesses in the area were paying him for “protection.” After the victim refused to pay, Dervishaj and Nikolla confronted him at a bar in Queens. Nikolla took a gun from Dervishaj, stuck the gun in the victim’s ribs, and yelled that if he didn’t pay, Nikolla would go to his house and beat him in front of his wife and children, and then beat his wife and children. Dervishaj then gave the victim his phone number so he could make the demanded payments.
Finally, during 2013, Dervishaj, Nikolla, and Llakatura 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. Dervishaj violently assaulted the victim’s friend, punching him multiple times in the face, while a gun was held to the back of his head. The victim ultimately fled to a foreign country for a period of time to avoid the defendants’ extortionate threats, and later sold his social clubs.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Organized Crime & 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)