TIRANA—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.(1)
Neritan (Tani) Kocareli is 30 years old. He arrived in the United States from Albania when he was 17, after he, his brother and his parents won an immigration lottery. Later, he became a citizen.
Tani lived in Ridgewood, Queens and went to high school there, but he only lasted about two years before he started cutting classes and hanging out Albanian toughguys in the nearby La Roma Dei Café. He dropped out, and would eventually get a G.E.D..
That group Tani fell in with at La Roma Dei included the late, violent Genitan Kasa, who became a soldier in the employ of the notorious Krasniqi brothers, Bruno and Saimir. It also included Plaurent Dervishaj, another former associate of the Krasniqis, who is currently at large and on the most-wanted list of federal law enforcement agencies in America and Albania.
At another Albanian spot nearby, the Rogner Café, the customers were just as rough. It included the Albanian drug kingpin, Kujitim Konci (a.k.a. Kujitim Gonxhe, a.k.a. Shpetim Konci) and a major Albanian-American dealer named Parid Gjoka.(1)
Following close on the heels of the U.S. attorney’s successful conviction of a handful of New York-based Albanian-American gangsters, the NYPD and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration coordinated a far-reaching new bust of the city’s Albanian mob, making arrests throughout the boroughs and beyond.
It’s too soon to tell whether this is the end of an era for the New York-Albanian mob and its role at the center of a global drug network, or if law enforcement as merely made room for new, up-and-coming criminals to take the places of the soldiers they’ve now taken out of commission.(1)
I spent about ten months reporting on Albanian organized crime, all leading up to three weeks in a New York federal court house for the first trial of a group Albanian-Americans with ties to the organized international drug trade.
The jury decided the case in one day.
To understand the story of Albanian organized crime in New York City, where the murder and drug-trafficking trial of the notoriously violent Krasniqi brothers and their associates got underway this week, I had to go to Michigan.
For five hours in a prison on the Canadian border, I sat across a table from Ketjol Manoku. He’s in for murder—ten felony sentences. His latest motion had been denied the day before I arrived.(7)
It's not every day that two weed dealers from New York City face the death penalty.
These two are a pair of Albanian-American brothers from Staten Island named Saimir and Bruno Krasniqi, ages 29 and 26. They, along with a 27-year-old partner named Almir Rrapo—who was a civil servant in Albania, working for a deputy prime minister at the time of his arrest—led a crew of 15 other men. The other members of their crew were Albanian, too.(14)