March 28, 2018 By Tara Law
A former police officer who helped a gangster extort money from two Astoria business owners has been sentenced to 14 years in prison, U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue announced yesterday.
Besnik Llakatura, who was an officer at the 120th precinct in Staten Island, helped to extort two small business owners between May and November 2013, forcing them to pay bribes in exchange for “protection,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
He was convicted on two counts of violating the Hobbs Act, which prohibits extortion against interstate commerce, as well as one count of brandishing a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.
Llaktura and two co-defendants, Redinel Dervishaj and Denis Nikolla, approached a man who had recently opened a restaurant in Astoria. They told him that he needed to pay them $4,000 a month in exchange for “protection” in what they called “our neighborhood.”
Llakatura warned the victim not to call the police, saying that Dervishaj would hurt him and that he had connections to organized crime in Albania. He told the restaurant owner that Dervishaj’s brother was Plaurent Dervishaj, who at the time was Albania’s most wanted fugitive.
When the victim failed to make payments, Nikolla, accompanied by Dervishaj, approached him on the street and chased him at gunpoint. The victim managed to escape in his car, but Dervishaj called him later and told him that he “got lucky this time.”
The three men collected payments over five months, which totaled $24,000, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
The men also threatened a club owner over the same period, demanding that he pay them $1,000 a week for protection. The victim refused, and stopped going to his club for his own safety.
Investigators wiretapped the men’s phones, and listened in as they discussed searching for the victim and forcing him to pay.
Unable to reach the club owner, the three men attacked one of his friends. They pulled a gun on the friend, punched him in the face and threatened him to compel the club owner to pay up.
Soon after, the club owner fled to a foreign country and sold his club.
Llakatura was arrested in Dec. 2013 and suspended without pay by the NYPD. He was
dismissed after he was found guilty in Dec. 2015.
Llakatura will serve five years supervised release upon completing his prison sentence. He was also sentenced to pay $10,000 in restitution and to forfeit $10,000. Dervishaj was sentenced a year ago to 57 years in prison. Nikkola was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Donoghue condemned Llakatura for violating his responsibility as an officer.
“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,” Donoghue said.
“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.”