update: June 17, 2006
Alex Rudaj, outside Jimbo's Bar in Astoria, Queens (NYC) on April 15, 2003.
Courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
A U.S. federal jury in New York convicted Alex Rudaj and five of his cohorts of a host of racketeering and extortion charges on Wednesday in a case where prosecutors alleged the defendants aspired to become New York's sixth Mafia family. The six men convicted of racketeering charges involving extortion, firearms offenses, loan-sharking, exorbitant debt collection and operation of large-scale illegal gambling businesses are:
- Alex Rudaj (Allie Boy, Uncle Radaj, Xhaxhai, Sandro Rudovic), age 38, Yorktown, New York - ring leader, born in Montenegro
- Nardino Colotti (Leonardo, Lenny), age 43, Bronx, NY - Italian protégé of the late Gambino soldier Phil (Skinny Phil) Loscalzo and group co-leader
- Nikola Dedaj (Nicky Nails, Big Nick, Nikol), 42, Yonkers, NY - Rudaj's chief enforcer and co-leader, the "main dispenser of violence"
- Ljusa "Louie" Nuculovic, 47, Hopewell Junction, NY.
- Prenka Ivezaj (Frankie, Big Frank), 40, Queens, NY.
- Angelo DiPietro (Fat Angelo), 48, Hopewell Junction, NY. Former owner of Sue's Rendezvous, a strip club in Mount Vernon, NY.
Peduto, now a government informant, testified that as he tried to get away, Rudaj and Colotti's car sideswiped his, hubcaps flying. Then Rudaj and Colotti hung out the windows of the fast-moving car, he said, and pumped five bullets into him.Peduto's credibility was the issue, based on an old 1998 case (People v. Fratello)
Defendant [Frank Fratello] was convicted, following a bench trial, of attempted murder second degree, assault first degree, criminal use of a firearm first degree, and criminal possession of a weapon second and third degrees. All of the charges arose out of the shooting of Guy Peduto shortly after 2 a.m., December 7, 1993, during a car chase in the Throgs Neck section of the Bronx. Peduto received serious head and body wounds. The rear window of the Pontiac sedan he was driving was shot out and there were multiple bullet holes in the automobile. When he was hit, Peduto lost control of the vehicle and crashed into two cars parked in a driveway. His assailants fled in their vehicle, leaving two Acura hubcaps and five 9 millimeter bullet casings at the scene.Mr. Rudaj's lawyer, James Kousouros, said that defeating the attempted murder charge was a major victory for the defense, because that charge carries a mandatory life sentence. Mr. Kousouros said he planned an appeal for Mr. Rudaj on the extortion charges.
Two out-of-court statements by Peduto, naming defendant [Frank Fratello] as one of his attackers, were admitted into evidence under the "excited utterance" exception to the hearsay rule, Cleary, a layperson who was walking to his home nearby when he heard gunshots and the crash, and came to Peduto's assistance. The second statement implicating defendant was made about ten minutes later to Officer Dennis Gardner, the first of the police to arrive at the scene.
Colotti hugged his attorney, Joseph Tacopina, following the acquital on the attempted murder charge.
The three month trial started on Sept. 26, 2005 and closing arguments ended on Dec. 20, 2004. The jury reached its verdict after five days of deliberations. Each defendant faces a possible life sentence. Minimum sentences for some defendants are seven years in prison. All six defendants will remain held without bail until they are sentenced on April 7, 2005.
During the tril, lawyers for the six defendants admitted their clients were involved in illegal gambling but denied they were part of a ruthless crime organization.
Prosecutors said the group raked in up to $4 million a year from an illegal gambling business run out of social clubs in The Bronx and Astoria, Queens.
The government called this mob the Rudaj Organization and said this was the first major case brought against the Albanian Mafia. The gang dubbed themselves "The Corportaion." The Rudaj Organization was founded in 1993 by Rudaj and Colotti, who were former associates of the Gambino crime family.
During the 1990s, the start-up Albanian organization seized and exercised control over illegal gambling operations in the Bronx, Queens and Westchester County. They did this by pushing aside the Lucchese and Gambino crime families. The old guard Italian Mafia was no match for the more violent Albanian organization. The Rudaj Organization wanted to become the sixth crime family of the New York metro area. The five traditional NY Mafia families are: Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and Lucchese.
The Journal News reported:
In addition to the Queens gambling dens, the Corporation ran gambling operations in Mount Vernon and Port Chester. Rudaj's group had a gambling joint on Adee Street in Port Chester and forced bar owners in Mount Vernon to install their illegal gambling machines. In one instance, Rudaj's group tried to force Salvatore Misale, the owner of Puerto Roja in Mount Vernon, to hand over his bar to the Corporation. Misale went to law enforcement authorities in 1999 after he endured a beating at a Bronx cafe over his refusal to hand over the keys to the bar.Nardino Colotti bit Misale's ear as he beat and cursed at him, while Nikola Dedaj waved a gun in his face, threatening to shoot.
Eight other Rudaj Organization members have pleaded guilty to gambling and attempted extortion, five face trial on gambling charges. One member of the gang, Miri Patani, is still wanted by the FBI.
The DOJ/US Attorney also issued a three page press release regarding the convictions see: Rudaj Conviction [pdf]. It added this bit of information:
In addition, just prior to trial, a seventh defendant, GJELOSH LELCAJ, a/k/a “Joey,” pled guilty to racketeering offenses including extortion and illegal gambling, and illegal re-entry into the United States, thereby avoiding trial.links:
Albanian crime family convicted of racketeering [Journal News, Jan. 5, 2005]
Prosecutors say New York crime group wanted to rival mob families [Newsday, Jan. 4, 2005]
Albanians convicted of muscling in on NY mob [Reuters, Jan. 4, 2005]
Alex Rudaj - Albanian Mafia Trial - Week 8 [TJN, Nov. 16, 2005]
Alex Rudaj - Albanian Mafia Trial - Week 3 [TJN, Oct 11, 2005]
Gangs of New York: Rudaj vs. Gambinos [TJN, Dec. 14, 2004]
Albanian Mafia Boss Denied Bail [TJN, Dec. 10, 2004]
New Mafia Gangs of New York fly below the radar screen [TJN, Nov. 15, 2004]
The Rudaj Organization aka: The Albanian Mafia [TJN, Nov. 1, 2004]
U.S. CHARGES VIOLENT ALBANIAN ORGANIZED CRIME GROUP IN GROUNDBREAKING RACKETEERING INDICTMENT [US DOJ, Oct. 26, 2004]
The New Islamic Mafia/Albanian Mafia: Information Summary [TJN, Sept. 25, 2004]
Albanian Mafia: Zef Vulevic Murder Update [TJN, Aug. 21, 2004]
Did the Albanian Mafia Murder Zef Vulevic? [TJN, May 19, 2004]
Danbury Murder Mystery-Update #6 [TJN, May 3, 2004]
update: June 17, 2006 -
On Friday, June 16, 2006, Alex Rudaj, 38, was sentenced to 27 years in federal prison for racketeering, extortion and gambling offenses.
Three of Rudaj's co-defendants also got hit with stiff sentences in U.S. District Court in Manhattan by Judge Denise Cote.
27 years for Nardino "Lenny" Colotti of the Bronx.
26 years and 7 months for Nick "Big Nick" Dedaj of Yonkers.
22 years for Prenka "Frankie" Ivezaj of Queens.
The men had faced maximum sentences of life in prison. They were also ordered on Friday to forfeit a total of $5.75 million and four properties to the government. They also must each serve five years of supervised release.
Sixteen other defendants from the Rudaj Organization have already pleaded guilty.
Rudaj's lawyer, James Kousouros, said they planned to appeal.
4 members of upstart Albanian crime group sentenced, fined [Newsday, June 17, 2006]
Yorktown man, head of crime family, sentenced to 27 years [TheJournalNews.com, June 17, 2006]