Other Brooklyns

NYPD officer, criminal associates charged with extorting Queens restaurant owner

Defendants collected $24,000 of `protection’ money during a five-month period

December 3, 2013 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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A three-count indictment was unsealed Tuesday in Brooklyn federal court  charging Redinel Dervishaj, Besnik Llakatura and Denis Nikolla with extortion, extortion conspiracy, attempted extortion and brandishing a firearm in relation to the extortion. 

The charges arose from the defendants’ extortion of money from a Queens County restaurant owner. Llakatura was at the time of the alleged offenses a police officer with the New York City Police Department (NYPD), assigned to the 120th Precinct in Staten Island. He was suspended without pay upon his arrest.

According to the indictment and court filings, Dervishaj, Llakatura, and Brooklyn resident Nikolla demanded monthly payments from the restaurant owner in exchange for “protection,” repeatedly using threats and intimidation to ensure his compliance. The scheme 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” and as a result, “you have to pay us.”

The restaurant owner, who understood that he was targeted because he, like the defendants, is of Albanian descent, sought help from his friend Llakatura. Unknown to him, Llakatura, an NYPD officer on Staten Island since 2006, was conspiring with Dervishaj in the extortion.

Llakatura discouraged the restaurant owner from going to the police and sought to leverage his position to persuade the victim that he had no choice but to make the demanded payments. When the victim resisted, he was threatened with physical violence and chased at gunpoint down the street in Queens by Nikolla.

“The defendants told their victims they offered `protection,’ but in reality, they peddled fear and intimidation through the Albanian community – their community – of Queens,” stated United States Attorney for the Eastern District 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.”

It is alleged that over the course of five months, each of the three defendants took turns collecting monthly payments from the Astoria restaurant owner, ultimately collecting $24,000 in so-called protection money.

The defendants were arraigned Tuesday at the Brooklyn federal courthouse before Magistrate Judge Joan Azrack.

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