Three men, Redinel Dervishaj, Besnik Llakatura and Denis Nikolla, have been charged with extorting money from an Astoria restaurant owner.
“The defendants told their victims they offered ‘protection,’ but in reality, they peddled fear and intimidation through the Albanian community — their community — of Queens,” said United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch. “When one victim turned to law enforcement for help, he was betrayed again by a corrupt officer on the take, who turned his back on his badge, his oath, and his friend in exchange for extortion money in his pocket.”
What’s more, Llakatura was an NYPD officer assigned to the 120th Precinct in Staten Island. He was suspended without pay upon his arrest.
According to the indictment, Dervishaj, Llakatura and Nikolla demanded monthly payments from the restaurant owner in exchange for “protection,” repeatedly using threats and intimidation to ensure his compliance.
The mob-style scheme began shortly after the victim opened the restaurant. He was visited by Dervishaj who told him that he had opened a business in “our neighborhood” and, as a result, “you have to pay us.”
The owner sought the help from his friend Llakatura who, unbeknownst to him, was conspiring with Dervishaj in the extortion.
The victim was discouraged from going to the police and when he resisted, he was threatened with physical violence and chased at gunpoint down the street by Nikolla.
Court-authorized wiretaps of the defendants’ telephones uncovered detailed evidence of their efforts to maintain control over businesses in the neighborhood through fear, intimidation and violence.
Over the course of five months $24,000 in so-called protection money had been collected from the restaurant owner.