New York City Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Extortion and Firearms Charges
Earlier today, Besnik Llakatura pled guilty at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, New York, to two counts of Hobbs Act extortion conspiracy and one count of brandishing a firearm in relation to an extortion conspiracy. The proceeding took place before United States District Judge Eric N. Vitaliano. At the time of the offenses, Llakatura was an active-duty police officer with the New York City Police Department (NYPD) assigned to the 120th Precinct in Staten Island, New York. He was suspended without pay upon his arrest in December 2013. When sentenced, Llakatura faces up to life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years. As part of his plea agreement with the government, Llakatura agreed to a $24,000 money judgment payable to the United States to be paid in part through forfeiture of $11,123 in cash seized during a search of his residence following his arrest.
The plea was announced by Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Diego Rodriguez, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and William J. Bratton, Commissioner, NYPD.
According to court filings and facts presented during the plea proceeding, between May and November 2013, Llakatura and co-defendants Redinel Dervishaj and Denis Nikolla conspired and attempted to extort a Queens restaurant owner and a Queens social club proprietor, demanding regular payments from each of these victims in exchange for so-called “protection.” The extortion of the restaurant owner began shortly after the victim opened a restaurant in Astoria when he was visited by Dervishaj and told that he had opened a business in “our neighborhood” and, as a result, “you have to pay us” $4,000 per month. The restaurant owner sought help from his friend Llakatura. Unbeknownst to him, Llakatura, an NYPD officer in Staten Island since 2006, was conspiring with Dervishaj in the extortion. Llakatura actively discouraged the restaurant owner from going to the police and sought to leverage his position of trust as a friend and a police officer to persuade the victim that he had no choice but to make the demanded payments, warning the victim that Dervishaj and his associates would physically harm him if he did not pay. When the victim resisted, he was threatened with physical violence and chased at gunpoint down the street in Queens by Nikolla. Over the course of five months, each of the three defendants took turns collecting monthly payments from the Astoria restaurant owner, ultimately collecting $24,000 in so-called protection money. Throughout the conspiracy, Llakatura presented an outward façade of friendship to the restaurant owner, all the while secretly working with Dervishaj and Nikolla to convey threats of violence and intimidation to ensure the conspiracy’s success.
During the same time period, Llakatura and his co-defendants also conspired and attempted to extort a proprietor of two social clubs in Astoria, where gambling occurred. Nikolla, accompanied by Dervishaj, made the initial extortion demand, seeking payments of $1,000 per week from the proprietor for so-called “protection.” The proprietor refused to make the demanded payments and ceased going to his social clubs out of fear for his safety. Court-authorized wiretaps of the defendants’ telephones revealed evidence of Llakatura’s participation in this extortion conspiracy with Dervishaj and Nikolla, and their attempts to locate the victim. In one instance, Llakatura and his co-defendants threatened, punched, and pulled a gun on a friend of the victim in an effort to have the friend locate the victim for them. The victim ultimately fled to a foreign country for a period of time to avoid the defendants’ extortionate threats.
“Through his participation in these extortion schemes, Besnik Llakatura turned his back on his badge and his community, choosing instead to break the laws he was sworn to uphold, rather than enforce them, and to thereafter extort members of the community he was sworn to protect,” stated United States Attorney Robert L. Capers. “Today’s guilty plea should serve as a reminder that no one is above the law. Those who use threats, intimidation, and violence to instill fear in our communities will be vigorously prosecuted.” Mr. Capers expressed his thanks to members of the Joint Organized Crime Task Force, which includes agents of the FBI and detectives of the NYPD, which led the investigation, as well as the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Division and the FBI’s Public Corruption squad for their cooperation and assistance in the investigation.
“Besnik Llakatura abused his powers and conspired with co-conspirators to extort innocent business owners in Queens. Not only did he not honor the oath he took to serve and protect, but he violated the public trust, especially of the victim who came to him as a police officer to report a crime. Today’s guilty plea shows that public trust is not to be abused,” stated Assistant Director-in-Charge, Diego Rodriguez.
“I have no tolerance for corruption at any level in this department. Any member of the NYPD who violates the law, which we are explicitly charged with upholding, will be held fully responsible for their actions,” said Police Commissioner William J. Bratton.
The charges in the indictment against co-defendants Redinel Dervishaj and Denis Nikolla are merely allegations, and these defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. Dervishaj and Nikolla are scheduled to commence trial in March 2016.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Organized Crime and Gangs Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Nadia Shihata, M. Kristin Mace, and Patrick Hein are in charge of the prosecution.
- BESNIK LLAKATURA, a/k/a “Besi” and “Nick”
- Age: 36
- Staten Island, New York