The streets of Tirana and the roots of Albanian-American organized crime
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 solder. 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....MUCH MORE