BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
An Albanian man from Astoria who was a member of a violent Albanian extortion crew has been sentenced to 18 years in prison, the U.S. attorney for New York’s eastern district said.
Denis Nikolla, whose imprisonment will be followed by five years’ supervised release, was part of a crew that extorted small businesses in Astoria, U.S. Attorney Robert Capers said.
“The defendant and his partners [Redinel Dervishaj and Besnik Llakatura] used fear, intimidation and threats of violence to demand payment from those who dared to open businesses on their so-called turf of Astoria, Queens,” Capers said. “When his victims refused to pay, the defendant and his partners escalated their efforts to secure payment, brazenly brandishing firearms at their victims.
Today’s sentence sends a strong message that criminals who use extortion and violence to profit from others’ hard work in our community will be held accountable and punished.”
According to the court filings, Nikolla, Dervishaj and Llakatura attempted to extort a Queens restaurant owner by demanding $4,000 a month in exchange for “protection.” Dervishaj first approached the restaurateur, resulting in the business owner’s seeking help from Llakatura, who was a friend but also a city police officer at the time in Staten Island. Llakatura discouraged the business owner from reporting the incident to the police and warned him that Dervishaj and his associates would physically harm him if he did not pay.
After the owner failed to make the payments, Nikolla violently threatened the victim with a semiautomatic handgun, the U.S. attorney said.
Over the course of five months, the defendants each took turns collecting monthly payments from the owner, extorting a total of $24,000 from him.
Nikolla was sentenced on two counts of Hobbs Act extortion conspiracy, one count of threatening physical violence in furtherance of an extortion plan and one count of brandishing a firearm. His co-defendants are awaiting sentencing.