Revisiting New York's Whackiest Wiseguys, aka The Albanian Mafia

In January 2014, Bajram Lajqi was sentenced in Brooklyn federal court to six years in prison; he'd plead guilty on June 27, 2013, to drug trafficking and firearm use.

Bajram Lajqi is arrested in 2013 for pulling off halfass hit
Bajram Lajqi under arrest in 2013.

Lajqi was a "member" of an Albanian organized crime group that operated in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

On June 4, 2011, Lajqi attempted to murder another member of the gang.

“... Lajqi, in particular, exemplifies the violence tied to large-scale narcotics trafficking, as his drug-fueled quest for revenge led him to gun down a rival outside a Bronx restaurant,” the U.S. Attorney said in a press releaseNow the U.S. Attorney is doing an injustice to Lajqi right there, by making him sound, at the very least, like a competent hitman. The truth is, he's not.

We love how the gothamist wrote this one up:

"What with all the massive busts and small-time stabbings, the mob just ain't what it used to be. Nowadays nobody takes any pride in their work, as evidenced by a recent Albanian mob hit gone awry in the Bronx. According to the Post, Bajram Lajqi was upset at an associate who had helped him smuggle drugs so Lajqi set out kill the man as he left the Tosca Cafe. After he and a partner slashed their target's tires, the plan was to wait for him to leave the restaurant and quietly kill him before he could escape. At the last second Lajqi felt this wasn't an inspired enough plan, and ended up punching him in the face in the restaurant. A punch? Where's the ice pick? Where's the head-in-the-vice?

"Lajqi was able to neutralize a bouncer by pulling a gun, but by that time the man was fleeing on foot, so he had to settle for some not-so-quiet gunshots as a last ditch effort. He must be a halfway-decent shot, because the victim was "hit in his left and right thighs…but was somehow able to run away." In case Lajqi wanted to play Monday-morning quarterback, the entire incident was on the restaurant's surveillance camera. Maybe Lajqi would be better off joining the nitrous mafia."

Alex Rudaj, Albanian mob boss, uses binoculars -- to surveil the surveillers?
Alex Rudaj, former Albanian boss, uses binoculars -- to surveil the surveillers?

This Albanian mafia, as described in the U.S. Attorney's press release, was composed of several related ethnic Albanian family clans, with "hundreds of associated members, workers, and customers spanning three continents." It was operating for about a decade and organized the importation and distribution of hydroponic marijuana from Canada and Mexico; MDMA from the Netherlands and Canada; cocaine from Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, and Peru; and large quantities of diverted prescription pills. They were certainly very savvy in terms of their ability to diversify.

Forty-nine members and associates of the group were convicted in the case. Federal agents seized more than 1,200 pounds of marijuana, about $2 million in bills, 22 handguns, an assault rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

What is interesting is that the U.S. Attorney said the group had been operating for about a decade.

Let's go back 10 years to 2004, specifically Oct. 26, 2004. On that day, the New York tabloids were in a frenzy, churning out headlines regarding the arrest of Albanian mob boss Alex Rudaj and 21 others by the FBI and Manhattan's then-U.S. Attorney.

Some may recall the "Rudaj Organization," the name given to the Albanian mafia in the New York City metro area. It was named for Alex, boss of the group, which was also known as the Albanian Mafia or The Sixth Family (the third would-be Sixth Family I have heard of, the other two being New York's notorious Purple Gang (whose former boss was whacked a couple of years ago) and the Montreal Mafia formerly run by Vito Rizzuto).

Called "The Corporation" by its members, the group started operating in 1993 in Westchester, then spread into the Bronx and Queens. So is it truly correct to say that Lajqi and whatever you want to call that Albanian mafia, the one with "hundreds" of members, was different from the Rudaj Organization? That the first one, which launched in 1993, came to an end in 2004, and then, that same year, another Albanian mafia, also highly active in the Bronx, started out? I am wondering what was the name of the Albanian kingpin who was arrested in 1993....

But wait... there's more...

Zeke is arrested; the Gambino acting boss had a sitdown with crazy Albanians
Zeke to you.... Gambino acting boss Arnold Squitieri was a well-known junk dealer.

Interestingly enough, on Oct. 26, 2004, when the announcement was made about the arrest of Rudaj and 21 members of his group, the then-U.S. Attorney described the indictment as the first federal racketeering case in the United States against an alleged organized crime enterprise run by Albanians.

The then-U.S. Attorney had failed to mention the 1981 indictment of an Albanian-dominated drug smuggling operation by federal authorities--also in Brooklyn. Most of the defendants were native Albanians or first-generation Albanian-Americans.

The old Rudaj organization had become something of a thorn in the New York Mafia's collective shoe....

Back in August 2001 (little did we know that our world would change forever one month later) two Greek associates of the Luchese crime family were operating a gambling den inside a Greek social club called Soccer Fever in Astoria, Queens, when Rudaj and at least six other men entered the club, each heavily armed.

The Albanians beat at least one person, then chased everyone outside onto the street, threatening to destroy the whole building.

Rudaj had issued a similar threat, a few days earlier, at what was supposed to be a sitdown with the Gambino family.

Vinny Basciano

Acting Gambino boss Arnold Squitieri had sought the meeting. The veteran heroin smuggler was weary and wary of the uppity Albanian mobsters and wanted to reach an agreement.

Twenty Gambinos, all heavily armed, accompanied Squitieri. Rudaj brought six guys (the same six he'd later bring to Soccer Fever?).

According to FBI agent Joaquin Garcia, who had infiltrated the Gambino crime family during this period, Squitieri had told Rudaj that it was game over, but that the wily Albanian gangster could keep whatever he'd managed to take up until the sitdown.

"You took what you took and that's it or there's gonna be a problem."

One thing leads to another, and nearly 30 guys were swiftly holding pistols on each other.

The Albanians, probably owing to their being outnumbered, not to mention mad-dog crazy, threatened to blow up the gas station with everyone in it.... And the sit down, on that note, was concluded. (Who had the bright idea of meeting at a gas station, anyways?)

The Albanians had trouble with other crime families. When Rudaj butted heads with a crew of car thieves tied to Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, who later served as acting (or official) boss of the Bonanno crime family sent two men armed with machine guns to tell Rudaj that the crew was under the Bonanno's flag.

That's nothing, however, compared to what the Lucheses were planning for the Albanians under Rudaj.

Lucheses Set to Blow Rudaj Away
The arrests of the Rudaj-led Albanians occurred earlier than the Feds had planned because street intel had informed them that Luchese family members were arming themselves to the teeth in order to carry out their plan to exterminate as many Albanian gangsters as possible.

"The Luchese were getting ready to whack all of them," a law enforcement source told this blog. "[The Lucheses] were tired of them. They'd gotten too big for their britches."

The Feds, literally, scooped up the Albanians right before the Lucheses could strike.

"We really came close that time," the agent noted.

In 2006, Vinny Gorgeous was sentenced to 27 years in prison. Squitieri was convicted in an unrelated racketeering case and sent to prison; he got out in December 2012.