Former NYPD officer gets 14 years for extorting Astoria business owners

Former NYPD officer Besnik Llakatura is sentenced to more than 14 years in prison after he took part in extortion schemes that targeted small business owners in Astoria.
Courtesy of the U.S. Attorney’s Office
By Bill Parry

A former city cop was sentenced to more than 14 years in prison in Brooklyn federal court late last month for his role in two schemes to extort small business owners in the Albanian community in Astoria.

Besnik Llakatura, 38, was an officer at the 120th Precinct on Staten Island when he forced two small business owners to pay bribes in exchange for protection between May and November 2013, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District. Llakatura pleaded guilty March 27.

Denis Nikolla and Redinel Dervishaj, Llakatura’s co-conspirators in the organized crime gang, were sentenced to 18 and 57 years in prison, respectively, federal prosecutors said. The three conspired to extort more than $24,000 from an Astoria seafood restaurant owner, with Dervishaj telling the victim he had to pay $4,000 a month because he had opened in “our neighborhood,” according to court filings.

When he failed to make the payments, Nikolla and Dervishaj threatened him on a public street and chased him at gunpoint. The victim, a friend of Llakatura, sought help from him not knowing he was involved in the scheme. Llakatura discouraged the victim from going to the police, court papers said.

The gang also attempted to extort $1,000 a week from the owner of two social clubs, who refused and stopped visiting his clubs out of fear for his safety. Llakatura and his co-defendants threatened, punched and pulled a gun on the victim’s head, leaving him with injuries to his face, federal authorities said. The victim fled to a foreign country to avoid the defendants threats, and later sold his clubs.

“Besnik Llakatura took an oath to serve and protect the citizens of New York City as an officer with the NYPD, while simultaneously pledging his allegiance to a violent organized crime group bent on shaking down local Queens business owners within the Albanian community,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney said. “He quickly discovered what happens to those who find themselves on the wrong side of the law, and after his guilty plea, was stripped of his shield of honor.”

Llakaturra was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Eric Vitaliano to 14 years and three months in prison for his convictions on two counts of Hobbs Act extortion conspiracy and one count of brandishing a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.

“In flagrant violation of his sworn duty to serve and protect the community, former Police Officer Llakatura, along with his criminal partners, used fear, intimidation and threats of violence to demand payment from hardworking citizens who dared to open businesses on their so-called ‘turf’ of Astoria, Queens,” U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said. “Today’s sentence drives home the message that no one is above the law and a police officer who commits crimes against the community he serves will be held fully accountable.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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