An NYPD officer was among three people arrested Tuesday by the FBI on charges they were part of an extortion scheme aimed at an ethnic Albanian restaurant owner in Queens, officials said.
The officer, Besnik "Nick" Llakatura, 34, was accused in a three-count federal indictment unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn of telling the extortion victim -- identified in court papers only as "John Doe #1" -- that the other suspects "run Astoria" and that he would be hurt if he didn't pay up, officials said in court papers.
While the alleged $24,000 shakedown plot involved only one restaurant, federal investigators said in a letter filed with the court that the suspects were involved in other Albanian business extortions of the kind that had been prevalent over past decades in Italian, Chinese and other emerging ethnic communities around the city.
"The defendants told their victims they offered 'protection,' but in reality they peddled fear and intimidation through the Albanian community -- their community -- of Queens," U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch said in statement.
Complaints to the 111th Precinct triggered a joint FBI-NYPD organized crime probe that led to the arrests, a police spokesman said.
When one possible extortion victim told Llakatura he needed more time to pay, the officer said "You're going to get it and give it to me one way or another," according to court papers.
Arrested along with Llakatura of Staten Island, who has been an officer since June 2006 and is now suspended without pay, were Redinel Dervishaj, 37, of Queens, and Denis Nikolla, 33, of Brooklyn.
Dervishaj was a suspect last year in the stabbing death of a groom-to-be during a fight outside a wedding reception on Staten Island. Dervishaj claimed self-defense and ultimately a grand jury declined to indict him.
In 2007, Dervishaj was involved in a suspected burglary of the home in which he was wounded and a accomplish shot dead. Dervishaj pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted grand larceny and received time served, said a spokeswoman for the Queens district attorney's office.
In Albania, Dervishaj's brother Plaurant is considered a major organized crime figure and a fugitive wanted for several murders, federal officials said. Plaurant Dervishaj traveled to New York in 2006, court papers said.
Llakatura, Dervishaj and Nicolla were ordered held without bail Tuesday by magistrate-judge Joan Azrack.
Outside court, Llakatura's defense attorney Kevin Keating derided the notion that his client would get involved in such a scheme.
"There's something very odd about the allegations that makes it facially unbelievable that a police officer would involve himself in such a scheme for the grand sum of $6,000," Keating said. With John Riley