2018-04-11 / Front Page

14 Years For Former City Cop In Astoria Extortion Scheme

By Liz Goff
A disgraced former NYPD officer was sentenced last month to more than 14 years in federal prison for his role in a pay-to-play protection ring that targeted small business owners in the Astoria Albanian community.

Besnik Llakatura, 38, was assigned to the 120th Precinct on Staten Island when he threatened two Astoria businessmen to pony up cash payments for protection between May and November 2013, federal prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Denis Nikolla and Redinel Dervishaj, the brother of one of Albania’s most wanted criminals, told the man, who had just opened a restaurant in Astoria, that he would have to fork over $4,000 a month to operate the business “in our neighborhood.”

When the victim failed to make the payments, Dervishaj and Nikolla threatened him on the sidewalk outside his restaurant, chased him at gunpoint and threatened to beat him up on front of his wife and children if he failed to pay, prosecutors said.

The restaurant owner turned to a friend, now-disgraced ex-NYPD Officer Besnik Llakatura, who advised him to pay the protection money and to not report the extortion to police because,  “These people run Astoria,” prosecutors said. The restaurant owner was unaware that Llakatura was working with Dervishaj and Nikolla, according to prosecutors.

Llakatura partnered with Dervshaj and Nikolla to plot to extort the protection money from the victims, and Llakatura personally picked up $6,000 of  $24,000 paid by one of the victims, prosecutors said.

The three men also attempted to extort $1,000 a week from the owner of an Astoria social club who refused to pay, prosecutors said. The victim steered clear of his clubs after receiving threats of violence.

Llakatura and his co-defendants caught up with the man on one occasion, where they threatened, punched and put a gun to the victim’s head, prosecutors said. The victim suffered injuries to his face and fled the country to avoid another violent encounter. The man later sold both clubs.

“Besnik Llakatura took an oath to serve and protect the citizens of New York City as an officer with 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,” FBI Assistant Director-In-Charge William Sweeney said in a prepared statement.

“He quickly discovered what happens to those who find themselves on the wrong side of the law, and after his guilty plea he was stripped of his shield of honor.”

Llakatura pleaded guilty on March 27 to two counts of Hobbs Act extortion conspiracy and one count of brandishing a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. U.S. District Judge Eric Vitaliano sentenced Llahatura to four years and three months in federal prison for his part in the extortion scheme.

“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 hardworking citizens who dared to open businesses on their so-called “turf” of Astoria, Queens,” U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said in a prepared statement. “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.”

 

 

 

 

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