Prosecutors: NYPD Officer, 2 Others Extorted $24,000 From Astoria Restaurant Owner
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – An NYPD officer and two other men have been indicted on charges of extortion for allegedly threatening a Queens restaurant owner and collecting “protection” money, prosecutors announced Tuesday.
As WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported, it was a double betrayal for an Astoria restaurant owner. First, prosecutors said he was shaken down by two fellow Albanians – Redinel Dervishaj and Denis Nikolla – who demanded monthly payments.
Then, the victim turned to his friend and NYPD officer, Besnik Llakatura, for help. Instead, Llakatura was corrupt and part of the extortion scheme, said prosecutors.
The NYPD officer encouraged the business owner to comply with the demands, Cornell reported.
WEB EXTRA: Read The Indictment (pdf)
When the victim resisted paying the defendants, authorities said he was threatened and chased through the streets by a defendant with a gun.
“The defendants told their victims they offered ‘protection,’ but in reality they peddled fear and intimidation through the Albanian community – their community – of Queens,” United States Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement. “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.”
Over the course of five months, prosecutors said the defendants pocketed $24,000 from their victim, 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported.
The NYPD officer – who has worked out of the 120 Precinct on Staten Island since 2006 – was later caught on tape joking about how he “taxes” the local businesses, Cornell reported.
“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 George Venizelos said in a statement.
The defendants were indicted on three counts including extortion conspiracy and brandishing a firearm in relation to the extortion. They were due to be arraigned later Tuesday at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
Llakatura has been suspended without pay.
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