Staten Island man sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment for international arms trafficking and money laundering
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, Albert Veliu was sentenced by United States District Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto to nine years’ imprisonment for his role in a money laundering scheme that resulted in the defendant’s purchase and sale of an anti-tank rocket launcher and AK-47s rifles in Kosovo. Veliu pleaded guilty in February 2019.
United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard P. Donoghue, DEA New York Division Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan, Homeland Security Investigations New York Field Office Special Agent-in-Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh, New York City Police Department Commissioner Dermot F. Shea, and New York State Police Superintendent Keith M. Corlett announced the sentence.
“The arrest, conviction, and today’s sentencing of Veliu mark an important victory for law enforcement in disrupting an international money laundering and arms trafficking network ready, willing and able to provide a pipeline of lethal weaponry to purported drug cartels in Mexico,” said U.S. Attorney Donoghue. “Through our partnerships with law enforcement agencies around the world, we will continue to target and dismantle international criminal organizations.” Mr. Donoghue thanked the DEA New York Division, DEA Special Operations Division, DEA Austria Country Office, DEA Croatia Country Office, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, the New York City Department of Investigation and the Kosovo Police Force for their outstanding cooperation and assistance.
“This sentencing brings to light the multitude of offenses often linked with money laundering including extortion, arms and drug trafficking,” said Special Agent in Charge Donovan. “The casualties of these crimes cross all borders and I applaud the law enforcement agencies involved in the arrest and prosecution of Albert Veliu for their collaboration and partnership.”
“Veliu’s illicit business spanned the globe. By ‘cleaning’ drug money and buying and selling high powered weapons, he was able to create a dangerous and lucrative criminal enterprise,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Fitzhugh. “HSI’s continued efforts with the DEA and other law enforcement partners allows for the arrest of those who threaten the safety and security of the public both domestically and abroad.”
“This case illustrates the great police work done by the Strike Force, putting another suspect behind bars,” said Superintendent Corlett. “The investigation spanned continents, involved rockets, high-powered firearms and a suspect who was prepared to provide deadly, dangerous weapons to criminals. With this sentencing, law enforcement has once again put an end to a violent enterprise, and made our streets safer.”
In October 2017, Veliu and his co-conspirators met with a DEA confidential source, who represented himself to be a narcotics trafficker in need of laundering his illicit drug proceeds through a shell corporation. Veliu agreed to assist the CS in exchange for a commission. Veliu then orchestrated the money laundering scheme by, among other things, exchanging the cash for purportedly “clean” checks made out to the shell corporation. The checks were supported by fraudulent paperwork, including bogus invoices and receipts. Throughout the course of the investigation, the CS gave Veliu approximately $800,000 in purported drug proceeds to be laundered.
Later in the investigation, Veliu informed another DEA confidential source (CS-2) that he had access to firearms in Kosovo and was willing to broker a sale. Veliu and CS-2 agreed that Veliu would purchase and then sell weapons he believed were bound for drug cartels operating in Mexico. After accepting payment for the weapons, Veliu traveled to Kosovo to deliver the firearms to an individual he believed to be a Kosovo-based associate of CS-2. Thereafter, on two separate occasions, Veliu and his co-conspirators provided individuals with 14 AK-47s and an M80 Zolja Anti-tank Rocket Launcher equipped with a 64mm rocket. Subsequent search warrants executed by Kosovo police netted additional weapons, ammunition and over 60,000 euros.
The arrest in this case was the result of a long-term investigation by the DEA’s New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force, comprising agents and officers of the DEA, New York City Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, New York State Police, U.S. Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service, New York National Guard, 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 Area, which is a federally funded crime fighting initiative.
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.
Staten Island, New York
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