10:53 am Jun. 14, 20121
In June 2010, 17 men were arrested and charged by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan with a long list of federal RICO mob charges that included robbery, kidnapping, murder, drug dealing, weapons possession, conspiracy, extortion, arson, and obstruction of justice. They all came from Albania.
Authorities called it the Krasniqi Organization, a criminal enterprise run from 2003-2010 by two twenty-something Albanian brothers, Bruno and Saimir Krasniqi, who led a crew of hustlers, first in Michigan then in New York City.
In the lead-up to their trial last year, I wrote a series of articles for Capital about the New York-Albanian mob, for which I conducted more than a hundred interviews with criminals, criminal associates, law-enforcement agents and civilians in and around New York and Michigan. Following the series, I received a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism to continue my reporting in Albania.
TIRANA—The members of the Krasniqi crew in New York loved Scarface, Donnie Brasco, Goodfellas, John Gotti and the Iceman. One nicknamed himself "Tony Montana."
They hustled hard and all-in, with seemingly no regard for consequences, taking equally reckless approaches to their dealings with other dangerous gangsters and the police. For them, it wasn't about business—they seemed committed to the life, at all costs.
They practiced shooting at gun ranges, and then shot off their weapons in a coffee shop and, another time, from a car going down the highway in celebration after a drug deal.
They bought gun after gun, with accessories—Glocks, silencers, shotguns, 9 mms, semi-automatics, hollow-point bullets, bulletproof vests. They picked up a gun from a fellow restaurant worker for 50 dollars and bought a machine gun from a former soldier. They’d refer to the weapons in code, saying to each other in Albanian, “Make sure you bring that thing (sende) with you.”
They stashed the guns at the house of an associate, Elton Sejdaris, who at one point was the only one of the gang who didn't live with his parents.
They kidnapped an Albanian they had a dispute with, taking him from his apartment in his boxer shorts. They roughed him up and then let him go, spraying semi-automatic weapon fire past his head as he ran down the street at night.
One night Saimir was at the wheel of a Michigan rental car while Bruno and crew member Gentian Kasa were leaning out a car window for a drive-by, unloading entire clips into another Albanian street hustler, a member of a different crew named Lonka Shehu.
(They had reason to believe Lonka was planning to murder them; he was to have been strapped onto the back of a motorcycle driven by rival crew member Parid Gjoka so he'd have both hands free to shoot the Krasniqis during the drive-by.)
The Krasniqis made friends on the periphery of the Italian-American mob. They went on collection rounds with a Genovese family associate, and hung out with a Gambino family associate who carried around pipe bombs.
The Krasniqis were sitting in a Bay Ridge club one night when the bouncer, ex-NYPD, was rushed by a customer with a large kitchen knife. Bruno and Saimir sprang up and knocked the knife out of the man’s hands, sending him fleeing and saving the ex-cop, who was the head of security at the club. The former officer later testified at the Krasniqis' trial, to their good character.
The crew members would all pile into a room at a Red Roof Inn with strippers and escorts. Once they pulled a gun on one, leading to a visit from the police.
They showed up for support at each others' trials and helped set up legal representation for fellow hustlers. They would drop $20,000 at Atlantic City tables, and call Toronto on pre-paid and walkie-talkie phones, saying “Send me 100 of those blancas, blonde girls, brunette girls,” referring in code to different types of weed.
One of the Krasniqis' hustles was to supplement their drug dealing and crime by stealing marijuana they got on consignment or from other suppliers or dealers, a practice called “ripping weed.”
They once had a supplier riding in the car with them, accompanying his product (40 pounds in the trunk) from Michigan to New York. In Ohio they pulled into a rest stop, and while the supplier was in the bathroom they took off. They switched cars down the road in case he called the police on them. They sold the shipment for around $80,000, pure profit, and Saimir went out and bought a BMW. Bruno bought a Cadillac.
The ripping is what prompted the war with Gjoka’s crew, leading to Lonka’s death.
IN 2005, THE KRASNIQIS RIPPED A 100-POUND PACKAGE of weed that they got on consignment from a Toronto-based Albanian weed dealer. A guy they ran with, Erenick Grezda, had connected them with the supplier.
The Canadian dealer responded to the theft by paying $50,000 to men who were described at the trial as hard, northern Albanians from the Bronx to kidnap Grezda in New York.
They grabbed Grezda and transported him to Michigan, where they beat him until he agreed to participate in a plan to set up Bruno to be kidnapped.
Grezda called and told Bruno to go to some spot in New York to pick him up. Bruno agreed. When he got to the spot he was jumped by the kidnappers. He was bound, tossed in a van, beaten, stabbed, had his head covered with a pillow case and had guns put in his mouth.
The kidnappers moved Bruno to Ohio, where, I was told, he was held “by an Arab,” then they took him to the house of an Albanian named Franc Shestani in the area of Waterford, Michigan.
Saimir got a ransom call in New York. The kidnappers wanted $350,000: $250,000 for the weed and $100,000 more. Saimir called his lawyer Henry Scharg, who later testified that Saimir sounded petrified.
Saimir told Scharg that his girlfriend was in law school and clerking (and working as a nanny) for a federal judge. They decided to enlist the judge to help. Scharg called the judge. The judge suggested contacing the U.S. attorney’s office and the F.B.I., and Scharg called both.
Saimir had been deeply involved in a serious life of crime for at least five years. Just four months earlier he and Bruno had killed the rival in that drive-by. Yet he met with Michigan-based F.B.I. to get their help with his brother Bruno’s kidnapping, which only happened in the first place because they'd stolen a consignment of marijuana.
Saimir told the F.B.I. agents that the kidnapper was a man with a northern Albanian accent from Canada who identified himself as Klaudio Prendi. (The F.B.I. was going with the name "Klaudio Pendi," a mistake in the telling or the understanding.)
They asked Saimir if he was involved in any crime. In drug dealing, organized crime. He said no, and that his brother may have been kidnapped because his parents are rich or because of some road-rage incident involving another Albanian.
The F.B.I. agents asked whether Saimir had any connections to Canada, where the kidnapper was from. He said no.
They asked him whether he was involved in a 100-pound weed rip, which they presumably had intelligence on. He said no.
They asked whether he was involved in a shooting in Michigan that an Albanian named Oliger Merko committed. He said no, that he just gave Merko a ride.
They asked him about an extortion of an Albanian business in Michigan. He said he wasn’t involved, and that he was just in there buying coffee.
The F.B.I. searched his car and found $40,000 in it that he didn’t tell them about. Somehow he explained it away. The F.B.I. decided to use it as “flash money” for a sting operation.
A SWAT team, a surveillance team, and about 50 other F.B.I. agents were mobilized. They met with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and the F.B.I. in New York was contacted. The agents installed a recording device on Saimir’s phone, wired him and give him a bulletproof vest. They relied on Saimir as their only translator during the initial negotiations, until a drop could be set up.
The F.B.I. agents followed Saimir, who was headed to a parking lot to pay the ransom. As soon as Saimir handed the ransom money over to the man the kidnappers sent, the SWAT team and F.B.I. agents come in and arrest the man, Franc Shestani. Saimir was also put in cuffs.
The F.B.I. agent in charge tried to enlist Shestani to trap Prendi and the other kidnappers. Shestani agreed, but when the kidnappers called him to see what was going on, Shestani just kept on repeating, in Albanian, "Hello! Hello! Hello!"
At first the kidnapper he was speaking to didn’t understand, asking him why he wouldn't talk, and why he kept saying hello. Then he got it and said to Shestani, “I understand, don’t tell them anything.”
The F.B.I. agent (a man I talked to and who was involved in the arrest and investigation of two other Albanian gangsters, Merko and Ketjol Manoku, on murder charges) was alerted to what was going on by the Albanian translator who was along for the bust.
The agent grabbed the phone and screamed into it: “Klaudio, we know who you are. If anything happens to Bruno Krasniqi you will be charged with murder. We will hunt you down and you will go to prison.”
The kidnapper, possibly Prendi, hung up.
Shestani was reportedly hysterical.
“Kill me, just kill me now," he said. "You have to understand I have family. You don’t know what they can do to my family. They’ll kill me if I cooperate.”
But the kidnappers were spooked, and Bruno was dumped off in some rural area in Michigan. He called his brother. He was picked up by the F.B.I. and debriefed. The agents told Bruno that people had risked their lives to save him, and that he shouldn't lie to them.
He lied his head off. The F.B.I. let the Krasniqis go and that, seemingly, was that.
A month and a half later the Krasniqis killed a man over the kidnapping.
THE KRASNIQIS TOLD THEIR CREW TO BE CAREFUL because the F.B.I. might be monitoring them. That was how a law-enforcement agency had found out about Bruno’s kidnapping, they explained; the feds had heard about it on a phone tap.
This was a lie, of course—the F.B.I. knew about it because Saimir had told the F.B.I. about it and then cooperated with their sting operation.
Back in New York, Grezda was rattled, losing weight, scared to death of both sides. He tried to make things right with the Krasniqis and they had a sit-down. He told the Krasniqis just to pay the Canadians, that they were too organized to mess with.
The Krasniqis invited him over to a gathering with some of the crew one night. They took him into a room in the apartment, checked him for wires, and checked his body to see how bad his bruises were from the kidnapping. Bruno didn’t think the bruises were bad enough for what he did, for setting him up. According to a witness, Bruno said later he was so mad he wanted to kill Grezda right there in the apartment in the bathtub, but decided it would be too risky. The neighbors might have noticed the screaming, and he would have had to clean up the blood.
The brothers told Grezda they’d made a decision. They'd pay the Canadian suppliers. Let’s go out to Connecticut to pick up money from Tony our other drug connect, they told him, then we’ll all head to the club. They used crew member Elton Sejdaris mother’s 11-year-old car because, Saimir explained at the time, he had new rims on his own car and it was raining.
They got on the B.Q.E. Saimir was at the wheel, Grezda was in the passenger seat, Bruno was behind him in the back seat pretending to be on his cell, and Sejdaris was sitting next to Bruno, thinking that they were headed to Connecticut.
Saimir exited the highway then got back on. He leaned in to turn up the music. That was a signal for strong, stocky Bruno, who yoked Grezda from behind with one hand and with his other hand raised a .9 millimeter to Grezda’s head and shot twice. The coroner later described a muzzle imprint on Grezda’s head.
Sejdaris, shocked, asked why the hell he did it.
Saimir simply asked Bruno, “You alright?"
Bruno replied, “Are you alright?”
“Of course I’m alright,” Saimir said.
They dumped the body on the side of the B.Q.E. and had to stop at a 7-Eleven to get new cigarettes because the ones they tried to smoke were soaked with Grezda’s blood. Bruno cleaned his gun with a t-shirt and put the spent shells in a construction glove.
They stopped on the Belt Parkway not far from the Verazzano Bridge; Saimir gathered up all the evidence and threw it in the New York Bay.
They drove to a club where they met up with two other crew members and ordered drinks. Sejdaris went to the bathroom and threw up. Bruno told some jokes. The brothers told the others what happened and they decided to go burn the car. They give Sejdaris $7,000 for it and he called his mother and told her to report the car stolen.
The next day the Krasniqis’ mother made them all breakfast. They read in the paper that a man from Armenia had been found shot to death on the B.Q.E. Good, they thought—they don’t even know where the hell he’s from. Albania, Armenia. Then they headed to the coffee shop.
Back in Michigan, Franc Shestani continued to stonewall and lie to the F.B.I. He eventually made bail, then promptly skipped out on it. A source who knows him told me he has a serious reputation for being tough, that he ran a substantial dealing operation in Michigan and was in the Bronx at least once to sell marijuana, and that he had at least once ordered a hit on someone. The F.B.I. has no idea where Shestani is.
Bruno still wanted revenge on the man he blamed for setting up the kidnapping, Klaudio Prendi, and as late as 2009, a cooperating witness said, Bruno was trying to solicit a hit on him.
When I talked to New York-based F.B.I. agents early on in this case, long before Prendi’s name was mentioned during the trial, I told them that a source had told me that a Klaudio Prendi and a whole network of named associates in a drug operation were behind the kidnapping. I asked if they knew about that, and whether it was accurate. They said they had never heard of the any of the associates, or about the details of the drug operation, or Klaudio Prendi.
In Albania, I managed to get in touch with Prendi and meet up with him.
IN TIRANA, I RENTED A CHEAP MOTEL ROOM in a part of town called Selvia, and rented a car that I drove on highways that are pitch-black at night and have no speed limits.
I went through cities where the traffic lights are suggestions, weaving through the chaos of donkey carts, overloaded motorcycles and pedestrians crossing everywhere.
I met a body guard who said he once worked for David Beckham and kept his bulletproof vest under the back window of his car, who ended up helping me chase down prison officials and persuade them to give me access to their facilities.
I met with police, gangsters, lawyers, journalists, reformers, snitches; went into clubs, prisons, casinos, mosques; crossed shaky bridges in the countryside, wandered though city streets in the middle of the night taking photos of coffin shops, jails and graffitied walls; helped out a woman who was hit hard by a car as she rode her bike in night traffic; lost 25 pounds.
Every night I walked Tirana streets with garbage everywhere, old ladies sweeping with medieval brooms, and roaming packs of wild dogs. There were no sidewalks. The crumbling walls of many of the buildings were covered by gang tags: graffiti that said fuck this and fuck that, a picture of a smoking spliff on one wall, the phrase "criminal boys" tagged, in English, on the wall of a prison.
One night, a car flew by down a narrow street at about 80 miles an hour when the driver suddenly hit the brakes and intentionally drifted out down the road. Another night, on another narrow road, a man on a motorcycle, driving top speed, popped a wheelie and rode it down the road, no helmet.
The streets that had businesses on them were lined with coffee shops, casinos, and one pharmacy after another that sold drugs like Xanax and Ambien over the counter.
In a bleak, run-down cement apartment building, "Toni Montana" was graffitied on a hallway wall outside. I went there to visit a divorced mother who was fighting cancer, who lives with her mother and her young adult son who has to hustle to pay under the table for medical treatment. I ate a home-cooked Albanian meal and drank Grandma’s homemade wine.
I met a street-food vendor who used to work in restaurants in New York and lived in Jackson Heights. He told me he got to America by going to Spain, then going to Mexico, where he camped out in the forest for six months in a sleeping bag before he got smuggled across the border. He went back to Albania because his parents were sick. He said that so many Albanians hook up with Mexicans either to traffic drugs or to smuggle people into America that they joke that Mexicans and Albanians are brothers.
I helped five men carry a 20-foot roll of carpeting through narrow streets and across busy roads to their mosque. I met Russians, Chinese, and two young French men roughing it through the country, who told me they'd heard gunshots when they were outside the night before. I met conference-goers from nearby Balkan states who were eager to tell me how much they hated America. (I never heard that once from an Albanian.)
In downtown Tirana I watched kids sliding down a massive, crumbling pyramid-shaped monument to the late Communist dictator Enver Hoxha, who kept Albania remarkably isolated and oppressed even by the standards of other Communist dictatorships.
I told an Albanian reporter I was with I couldn't believe young children were allowed to do something so dangerous right there in front of everyone. He laughed and said, “It’s nothing, this is Albania.” He said the same thing when I reacted with surprise to a story about how he used to blast away with his father's gun at some windows across the way from his apartment when he was nine years old, in 1997.
Everybody had guns, he said. Everybody shot.
The bored, forlorn-looking girls in one of the drugstores lit up, happy for the chance to practice their English on me, and were incredibly welcoming, like almost everyone I met in Albania. One of them said she wants badly to go to the U.S. and has been trying and failing for years to win a visa through the Albanian lottery system. She said she's given up hope of ever getting to America, and of doing anything with her life.
IN THE COURSE OF REPORTING A SERIES OF ARTICLES LAST year for Capital New York on Albanian crime in America, I had encountered a surprising level of generosity and helpfulness from within the emigre communities from New York to Michigan, once I got past the suspicion. But that didn't prepare me for the hospitality I encountered from the people I met in Albania, who consistently summoned immense kindness from amid dire and often dangerous circumstances.
I met a 32-year old woman named Drita Mezini who I became close to and who helped me out in Albania tremendously. She worked as a clerk in the small hotel I stayed in, fetching coffee for the men who come in.
Drita is well-read and speaks good English. But her education, like that of so many other children in Albania, was interrupted because of widespread violence in the 1990s. (Often they couldn’t go to school and were told to watch "educational" television at home instead. Some of them, when they did go to school, had to use clear plastic bags instead of backpacks so they couldn't conceal any weapons or bombs.)
When she was 18, Drita said, she heard gunshots every night. There wasn't enough food. She was sent to Greece to stay with her father (her parents had divorced). But it was a bad situation and Drita snuck away and got back on her own to Albania, not even knowing the way, scared to death. She says she cried so much in 1997 her eyes still hurt now.
Drita gave me food, translated for me, helped me with directions, rode with me on reporting trips and generally looked out for me when I was headed toward trouble. She didn’t want or ask for any money for the help she was giving me. Once I had explained to her that I was over there to write about the origins of Albanian crime, she said she just believed that it was a useful thing I was doing, and that she wanted to help.
Thimi Samarxhiu, a 24-year old crime reporter for an Albanian newspaper, was also very generous, and helped me a great deal. He introduced me to a criminal lawyer who told me all about the major players there, like the huge heroin trafficker who used to live in the United States and had been killed just two months earlier in Albania; the inmate shot to death in the exercise yard from 300 meters away by a sniper; the judge who was killed earlier in the year with C-4 explosive; the anti-drug agent who was killed a month ago by an unknown assailant. The lawyer told me the Albanian murder rate is 10 per 100,000 people, compared to the European Union’s 1.2 per 100,000.
While I was there, Samarxhiu was assigned to cover a probable gang-related killing of one of the owners of the Rock and Roll Bar in Tirana, shot to death by a gunman with a silencer.
I tried to arrange an interview with Arif Kurti, an Albanian man who was indicted in federal court in Brooklyn, charged with being one of the kingpins of a huge drug syndicate. U.S. prosecutors said he had been running syndicate activities from behind bars with a smuggled Blackberry and cell phones, and they want him extradited to New York.
An Albanian prison official told me that Kurti was in Lezha prison, about two hours north of Tirana.
I set out for the prison with an Albanian-English dictionary in my car. I stopped several times for directions, but the place was impossible to find. I finally stopped at a gas station and asked the attendant whether he would be willing to help me. After a while he agreed. He hopped into the car and we took off.
We still couldn’t find it. He finally told me to stop on the highway and he got out and ran across a farm field to knock on the door of a small house to ask directions. We eventually turned off the main road and went down a barely existing bumpy dirt road, past numerous inactive construction sites, huge piles of dirt, a crane with a sleeping operator in the cab. Finally, in the middle of nowhere, there was the prison.
After a lot of drama and arguing and pleading—the gas-station attendant translated for me, and I raised Thimi on my cell phone, which I passed to prison officials through the gate—they finally told me that Kurti wasn't there anymore. He’d been transferred to another prison.
I asked them about Kurti’s co-defendant, who he was arrested with on a heroin trafficking charge. This guy had been his running buddy, who authorities in New York told me they think may be guilty of crimes, but who they didn't have anything solid on. (I was told by another source that this man had killed somebody.)
The guard whistled and said with a smile, in English, “Bye, Bye.” He'd been released.
I tracked down Kurti in the higher security Peqin prison, two hours south of Tirana, where visitors rolled up to the front gate in donkey carts. The prison authorities hadn't wanted to help me get access, so I just showed up. The second time, I showed up with Drita, and we managed to get the officials to take us inside and answer some questions. We were finally able to convince them to give Kurti a letter.
WHILE I WAS IN ALBANIA I REACHED OUT TO ANOTHER SOURCE, a person who said he had a past association with some of the Albanians involved with organized crime in the U.S., who had given me a lot of information that turned out to be correct. He told me he'd changed his mind, that it was too risky for him to meet me. Besides, he told me, the city he lived in was a long way from Tirana, where I was.
I decided to go see him. Drita went with me.
When we got close, we picked up a hitch-hiker who said he was from the city and would direct us to the center. At the center of town I scoped out a mall, where I found an internet café and sent this source a message asking him to meet me in the washing-machine section of the mall, which seemed pretty remote and safe, for his purposes.
Two hours later, while I was sitting at a restaurant in another part of town, I got a message that he would meet me.
I left Drita sitting in the restaurant, grabbed my backpack full of files, raced into a cab and managed to direct the driver to the mall in broken Albanian.
He was a tough-looking guy. He made a point of telling me that he had taken someone else’s car. He said he still wasn’t sure if I was F.B.I. or if I was being followed, or whether he could trust me. I jumped in his car and started talking to him.
We drove further and further from the city, up into mountains and through forest. He finally decided we weren't being followed, and that it was just him and me.
We arrived at a completely isolated mountaintop villa that looked a little like a miniature castle, and rolled up the driveway. Another hard-looking guy in the driveway greeted him.
It was now nighttime. We sat at a table outside, overlooking the whole city—me, him, and my backpack full of files containing information about criminals, trying not to shiver in my shirtsleeves. Then he got into it, started telling me about his world and naming names that matched up with the ones in my notes.
He said he'd chosen to live outside a city in America with a lot of Albanians because he wanted to keep a low profile. He worked primarily as muscle and as a driver for some big-time pot dealers. One of them was like a father to him, he said. He said he had been moving 600 pounds a week. He said he’s not scared of the police, but he’s scared of beef with other gangsters. I told him I'd be careful not to identify him.
He said he got paid $15,000 to drive 30 minutes a week, and asked me if I could even imagine how much they must have been moving. The crew bought weed from Vancouver into the U.S. He himself said he had about 20 kids working for him. He said kind of apologetically that if he worked in construction he would make only $400 or $500 a week. You want a job you can be proud of, he said; you don't want work as a busboy or waiter.
He talked about some ultraviolent guys he was with on muscle jobs who pounded away on people longer and harder than they needed to, who threatened to rape a man they were beating, who actually had to be talked down and told to chill.
He said he himself used to hurt people with baseball bats, and that it’s easier than you think to kill a man.
“I’ve beaten up people pretty bad, up to where they shit themselves, to the point where they should have died,” he said.
He said he'd lost count of the number of fights he'd been in since he was 13 that involved bats or knives.
He said with white dealers in America it was about muscle, and that he needed a body to match his heart, and so he had to get big.
With Albanians it wasn’t about being big, he said. With Albanians you had to use guns. He said black dealers were better at the street-level violence than at running big, organized operations: “They might shoot and kill but they can’t make money.”
He said he “wanted big money with a quiet life,” and that that quiet life was impossible as long as he was in the game. The money wasn't an issue—he didn’t have a place to hide all the money he was making.
He said he was in court one time to support a friend and a F.B.I. agent patted him on the back and greeted him by name. "I was like, 'What the fuck,'" he said.
At one point he was robbed of a substantial amount of money by someone who betrayed him and then put out a hit on him, he said: “We’re all screwing each other, ripping off each other.”
He talked about wanting a normal life and going to school, and told me some of the things he’s been going through. He’s dealing with some difficult issues.
He knew about the Krasniqis—he had been in the room with an associate named Erenick Grezda during his kidnapping. He told me it was a business decision, and that Grezda was beaten so badly he had to call and set up Bruno Krasniqi.
Krasniqi, of course, ended up killing Grezda by shooting him in the head. My source said it shouldn’t have gone that far. He said it should have been just business, not murder. Bruno was beaten, Grezda was beaten, it was over and it should have ended there.
He said the Krasniqis showed their greed in the first place by ripping off the weed, and said, “There’s enough money to be made.”
He said the Krasniqis thought they would never be found, but that the people who went after them were particularly hard-core.
He told me the Krasniqis bragged afterward about the killing, that they put it on the grapevine like “they made their bones.”
He gave me a lift back to town, on winding, wooded backroads. I kept glancing at the door handle.
When he dropped me off, he said that now I'd seen him, and seen his life.
“I’m not a monster," he said. "I’m not evil.”
KLAUDIO PRENDI, 30, IS A BIG, TATTED-UP MAN FROM the city of Shkoder in northern Albania. In 2003, when he was 23, he was arrested in America with 50 pounds of weed.
He said he was busted because of a mistake by a business associate, a black man, who didn’t know he was dealing with undercovers. He posted $50,000 in bail and jumped it. He was later picked up in Toronto on a traffic stop where he spent nine months waiting to be extradited to the U.S.
At one point he was in jail in Oakland County, Michigan—one of the centers of Albanian organized crime in America—along with his father. His father was on trial in Michigan along with four others on charges of distributing 12 kilos of cocaine. (His father wasn’t convicted, but the others were.)
After his sentence in 2008 he was deported, he's not allowed back in the U.S. for 25 years. He said he loved the United States.
I met him at a bar. He said he owned one himself, and might open another, though he's had legal issues.
He said he doesn’t know the Krasniqis and wasn’t involved in the kidnapping.
When I pressed him on this, he would only say that he’s clean now, that he did his time and he didn’t want to talk about the past.
He asked me if I would write about some of the negative information I found out about him. I told him I hadn't figured out what was going to be in the piece yet, so I didn’t know.
I went through all my files with him. He asked me who the hell was telling me these things about him, who was saying things about his family’s, including his mother’s, criminal involvement.
After we had talked for a while, I told him that if he was saying the stories weren't true he should just forget about what I told him. I said I didn't want him trying to figure out who'd told me what, and hurting people in the process. He said it was already forgotten.
I smoked a cigarette with him before I wandered out of the club to try to find my way back home.
(This is the first article in a series. It was reported with generous financial support from the Fund for Investigative Journalism. Research, reporting, and translation assistance was provided by Thimi Samarxhiu, crime reporter for the Albanian newspaper Gazeta Shqiptare. Logistical support, reporting and translation assistance in Albania was provided by Drita Mezini.)
More by this author:
- Takeout story: Behind bulletproof glass and out on a bike for a Chinese restaurant in Mott Haven
- No Seinfeldian glee at the temporary storm shelter at John Jay