Astoria actor with Genovese crime family ties busted by feds in an extortion plot

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An Astoria bookie with ties to the Genovese crime family was arrested by federal law enforcement officers Tuesday morning with two mobbed-up Long Island men and charged in connection to an extortion plot.

Luan “Lou” Bexheti, 49, who was previously prosecuted by the Queens district attorney’s office in 2019 for running an illegal gambling operation out of a “wire room” on 30th Avenue in Astoria, was busted along with Anthony Romanello, 84, of Franklin Square, and Joseph Celso, 49, of East Hills, both of whom are members of the Genovese crime family, according to a law enforcement source.

The extortion involves a gambling debt owed to Bexheti. The victim was the owner of a restaurant in Manhattan who was allegedly punched in the face by the 84-year-old Romanello when he and Celso had gone to the eatery to collect the debt in the summer of 2017.

The three men were indicted by a grand jury and were expected to be arraigned in Brooklyn federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sanket Bulsara on charges of extortion and obstruction of justice. The government is not seeking their detention so the three men will likely be released on bond following their arraignment, according to a law enforcement source.

Bexheti is a Macedonian-born actor and comedian who studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in Manhattan and appeared in 41 films, including one with Michael Moore, according to his IMDb biography. He is also listed as the producer of “Cadillac Man,” a film project about Thomas Wagner, a homeless veteran who lived on the streets in the Ditmars section of Astoria for more than two decades. Wagner became a cause célèbre in literary circles after penning his memoir, “Land of Lost Souls: My Life on the Streets,” which was published in 2009.

Celso is a member of the Genovese crime family and is familiar to Queens law enforcement for his role in an infamous Corona murder in 1991. Celso was one of ten young white men who allegedly chased 19-year-old Queens College honors student Manuel Mayi for 17 blocks before the Dominican teen was beaten to death at 108th Street and Corona Avenue. Celso was the only man who stood trial and he was acquitted in 1993 due to a flawed police investigation.