February 14, 2014
Contact: Public Information Officer
FEB 14 (BROOKLYN, N.Y.) On Friday, February 14, 2014, at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, Gjavit Thaqi, one of the leaders of an international drug trafficking syndicate run by ethnic Albanians located in the United States, Canada and Europe (the "syndicate"), and Robert Rudaj, a member of the syndicate, were sentenced to 120 months and 110 months, respectively. Thaqi, whose 22-year criminal history includes prior convictions for cocaine trafficking and illegal gun trafficking, previously pled guilty to trafficking more than a thousand pounds of marijuana from Canada and Mexico, and large quantities of diverted prescription pills, such as oxycodone. Rudaj, a Career Offender whose criminal career includes multiple prior convictions for assault and burglary, previously pled guilty to trafficking hundreds of pounds of marijuana and to assault. The sentences also included terms of supervised release of five years for both defendants.
The sentences were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; James Hunt, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New York; and James T. Hayes, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), New York.
"The sentences announced today hold to account two of the most prolific drug traffickers and violent members of an international criminal syndicate that smuggled narcotics throughout North America and the world. For over a decade, the defendants ran a global clearinghouse for illegal narcotics, with America's streets and youth their ultimate end point," stated United States Attorney Lynch. "We will continue to vigorously prosecute those who would poison the streets of our communities with drugs and violence."
The syndicate operated by Thaqi was comprised of inter-related ethnic Albanian family clans (also known as "fis") with hundreds of associated members, workers and customers spanning three continents. In operation for more than a decade, the syndicate was responsible for organizing the importation and distribution of tens of thousands of kilograms of hydroponic marijuana from Canada and Mexico, substantial quantities of MDMA from the Netherlands and Canada, hundreds of kilograms of cocaine from Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Peru, and large quantities of diverted prescription pills, such as oxycodone. The drugs were distributed in various locations in the United States, including New York, California, Georgia, Colorado and Florida, as well as in Canada and Europe.
The four-year investigation revealed that most of the marijuana smuggled from Canada and Mexico was concealed in tractor trailers, typically in hundred pound quantities, with some shipments weighing as much as 1,200 pounds. The marijuana shipments were stored in warehouses and stash locations throughout Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, before distribution. Kilogram quantities of cocaine were obtained from sources in the United States and exported to Albania and other locations in Europe concealed in hidden compartments inside luxury automobiles – ostensibly under the auspices of legitimate car dealerships which were actually controlled by syndicate members. Until the arrests of its members in July 2011, members of the syndicate, including Thaqi, were involved in negotiations to obtain hundreds of kilograms of cocaine from sources in South America for transport through the United States to Canada and Europe. Thaqi and other members of the syndicate were also involved in obtaining large shipments of oxycodone, and distributed thousands of oxycodone pills in New York which had been diverted from pain clinics in Florida.
Members of the syndicate were undeterred from committing further violence even after their arrest. For example, defendant Rudaj, who was often used by the syndicate to intimidate drug trafficking associates who owed the syndicate drug proceeds, was involved in the brutal assault of a fellow inmate at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York.
During the course of the investigation, federal agents seized more than 1,200 pounds of marijuana, approximately $2,000,000 in suspected drug proceeds, 22 handguns, a military/police-issue assault rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. In total, 49 members and associates of the syndicate have been convicted in the case.
U.S. Attorney Lynch expressed her grateful appreciation to the DEA New York Strike Force, DEA Special Operations Division, the Department of Justice Office of International Affairs, DEA Newark Division, DEA Denver Division, DEA Miami Division, DEA Albany District Office, DEA Rome Country Office, the HSI Attaché in Vienna, HSI Attaché in Toronto, HSI Albany Office, HSI Denver Office, HSI Newark Office, HSI Miami Office, the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Monmouth County (New Jersey) Prosecutor's Office, the Westchester District Attorney's Office and the New York Attorney General's Office for their assistance. The DEA's New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force is comprised of agents and officers of the U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the New York City Police Department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the New York State Police, the U. S. Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, New York National Guard, Office of Foreign Assets Control and the New York Department of Taxation and Finance. The Strike Force is partially funded by the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), which is a federally funded crime fighting initiative.
The sentencing proceedings were held before by U.S. District Judge Dora L. Irizarry.
The government's case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Steven Tiscione, Gina Parlovecchio and Claire Kedeshian.