Three NYPD cops were recently busted extorting $1,000 per week from the owner of a pizza shop in Queens. Besnik Llakatura, Denis Nikolla and Redinel Dervishaj, all New York police officers, were involved a scheme where “protection” money was coerced out of business owners under the threat of having their businesses shut down. Last month, Llakatura pleaded guilty to the charges against him. Denis Nikolla and Redinel Dervishaj are scheduled to appear in court in March, and it has been reported that Llakatura will not testify against them.
It is not clear how widespread the scheme was or how many businesses were being extorted, however the crimes were exposed when one of the victims went to the FBI and made them aware of what was happening.
After the indictment, United States Attorney Lynch said the police worked together to threaten the shop owners and make them feel like they could not turn to the police for help.
“The defendants told their victims they offered ‘protection,’ but in reality, they peddled fear and intimidation through the Albanian community—their community—of Queens. 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,” Lynch said.
The victim also said that the officers pointed a gun at him and told him to stay silent about the situation.
“By creating a climate of fear, the defendants allegedly coerced an innocent restaurant owner into paying for so-called protective services. The victim was further betrayed when seeking the assistance of Besnik Llakatura, an NYPD officer whose sinister intentions were shrouded by his badge of honor. But Llakatura didn’t serve his community with honor; he, instead, abused his powers to the detriment of the public trust. He remains an exception to those law enforcement officers who work selflessly to weed out crime and corruption in their communities,” FBI Assistant Director in Charge Venizelos said in a statement.
Venizelos claims that this is an isolated incident and just the work of “a few bad apples,” however just last week Queens District Attorney Richard Brown charged two Queens cops with shaking down the owners of karaoke bars in Flushing, in a scheme similar to this one.
According to New York Daily News, Llakatura faces up to life in prison, but his federal sentencing guidelines are 154 to 171 months. He will be sentenced by Brooklyn Federal Judge Eric Vitaliano on February 26 and he is still expected to get off fairly easy considering the maximum sentence.
“Mr. Llakatura has accepted responsibility for his unfortunate behavior and we are confident the judge will consider all the facts and circumstances and render an appropriate sentence,” defense lawyer Eric Franz said.