June 28, 2017
Contact: Erin Mulvey
Phone Number: (212) 337-2906
DEA New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force Operation Reveals La Cosa Nostra Weapons, Drugs, Money Laundering Scheme
Includes sale of anti-tank rocket launchers, 15 AK-47’s - shuts down international, violent source of weapons trafficking, drugs, extortion, money laundering
NEW YORK - Later today, Albert Veliu and Anthony Noterile will be arraigned at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, New York on charges relating to the operation of extortion, money laundering, and narcotics trafficking schemes that ultimately resulted in Veliu’s sale to law enforcement of over a dozen AK-47s and an M80 Zolja Anti-Tank Rocket Launcher equipped with a 64 millimeter rocker. Defendants Dilber Kukic, Ekram Sejdija, Xhevat Gocaj, Agim Rugova, and Alban Veliu are also charged in connection with a related money laundering scheme.
The charges were announced by James J. Hunt, Special Agent-in-Charge, DEA New York; Bridget M. Rohde, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Division, New York Field (IRS) James D. Robnett; Special Agent-in-Charge; Angel M. Melendez, Special-Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security (HSI), New York; James P. O’Neill, Commissioner, New York City Police (NYPD); and George Beach, Superintendent, New York State (NYSP).
As alleged in the complaint and a detention memorandum, the investigation revealed Christopher Curanovic, an associate of La Cosa Nostra, sought to recover an extortionate debt from a former criminal associate. Through the use of wiretap evidence and confidential sources working at the direction of law enforcement, agents were able to determine that Veliu, Curanovic and Noterile, another associate of La Cosa Nostra, devised an illicit scheme in which a money laundering operation would facilitate the re-payment of Curanovic’s extortionate debt. During the course of the investigation, the defendants laundered approximately $800,000 in purported drug proceeds. Defendants Kukic, Sejdija, Gocaj, Rugova, and Alban Veliu facilitated the money laundering scheme by, among other things, exchanging the cash for purportedly “clean” checks supported by fraudulent paperwork. Separately, Curanovic and Veliu also brokered the sale of approximately five pounds of marijuana to a confidential source.
In addition, Veliu informed a DEA confidential source that he had access to firearms in Kosovo for distribution. Thereafter, Veliu used his connections to broker the sale of more than a dozen AK-47s and the M80 Zolja Anti-Tank Rocket Launcher equipped with a 64 millimeter rocker. During one recorded conversation, Veliu referred to the AK-47s as “sneakers” and to the rocket launcher as a “Shaq-sized sneaker.” Search warrants conducted by Kosovo law enforcement netted additional weapons, ammunition and over 60,000 euros in cash.
DEA New York Special Agent-in-Charge James J. Hunt stated, “This investigation has shut down an illegal and violent source of weapons in our backyard. In this case, DEA defines weapons as guns and drugs since both are the source of murder and fatal accidents. As alleged, extortion, gun trafficking, robbery, and money laundering were some crimes that unfolded as we investigated a drug trafficking operation based in New York City with ties to Kosovo. I would like to thank the brave men and women from our local, state, federal, and international law enforcement partners for their cooperation and hard work.”
“This case demonstrates the increasingly global reach of our investigations and marks the important disruption a money laundering, drug trafficking, and arms trafficking network that extended into Europe and involved criminals who were prepared to provide a pipeline of dangerous weapons,” stated Acting United States Attorney Rohde. “Through our partnerships with law enforcement agencies around the world, we will continue to target and dismantle criminal organizations.” Ms. Rohde thanked the DEA New York Strike Force, DEA Special Operations Division, DEA Austria Country Office, DEA Croatia Country Office, the New York City Department of Investigation, and the Kosovo Police Force.
“These defendants allegedly participated in an illegal enterprise lining their pockets from their criminal activity,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Robnett of IRS Criminal Investigation. “Tracing the illicit funds and taking assets away from illegal operations is one of the government’s most effective tools against money laundering and organized crime.”
“These individuals allegedly used extortion, money laundering, and narcotics trafficking to aid Mexican drug cartels,” stated ICE-HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Melendez. “They further provided dangerous weapons, including an anti-tank rocket launcher. Protecting the homeland not only means ensuring that these drugs and weapons do not enter our streets, but it also means they not be distributed abroad.”
“The takedown of this weapons and drug trafficking operation is a direct result of the hard work and cooperation among our law enforcement partners,” said Superintendent Beach. “The New York State Police, along with our other law enforcement partners, will remain vigilant in our efforts to aggressively target and pursue such criminals who perpetuate these crimes that threaten the safety and security of our neighborhoods.”
The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Steven M. Gold at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn. The charges in the complaint are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Organized Crime and Gangs Section. Assistant United States Attorney Michael T. Keilty is in charge of the prosecution.
The arrest was the result of a long-term investigation by the DEA’s New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force, which is comprised of agents and officers of the DEA, the New York City Police Department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement - Homeland Security (HSI), the New York State Police, the U. S. Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and (ATF), U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, New York National Guard, the Clarkstown Police Department, U.S. Coast Guard, Port Washington Police Department and New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. The Strike Force is partially funded by the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking (HIDTA), which is a federally funded crime fighting initiative and part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force program.
Staten Island, New York
FCI Fort Dix, New Jersey
Queens, New York
Mamaroneck, New York
Bronx, New York
Staten Island, New York
Brooklyn, New York
Staten Island, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 17-M-585