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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Did the Albanian Mafia Murder Zef Vulevic?

Marash Gojcaj, the nephew and business partner of Zef Vulevic at the Danbury Gusto Ristorante was charged with his murder in 2008 2nd update: A jury in Danbury, CT found Marash Gojcaj guilty on Nov. 5, 2010, of murdering his uncle, Zef Vulevic, in 2004.

1st update:
Marash Gojcaj, the nephew and business partner of Zef Vulevic at the Danbury Gusto Ristorante was charged with the murder of the popular chef and restaurateur. He was taken into custody on August 19th, 2008 after his release from the Westchester County Correctional Center where he was being held on a drunken driving conviction. This was over four years after the April 2004 murder.

On September 4, 2008 in Danbury Superior Court a
57-page arrest warrant charging Marash Gojcaj, 32, with the murder of his uncle was made public. The warrant was based on testimony from several anonymous witnesses, including restaurant employees and an alleged organized crime informant.


Did the Albanian Mafia Murder Zef Vulevic?Was the Albanian Mafia responsible for the brutal murder of Danbury restaurateur/chef Zef Vulevic (aka Zef Vulaj and Joe Vuli)? Let's examine some background about the Albanian Mafia and the case specifics:

Frank J. Cilluffo & George Salmoiraghi wrote a very good article for Washington Quarterly describing the origins and rise to power of the Albanian Mafia:
Smuggling is the Albanian mafia's core competency, and over the past decade the Albanians have steadily come to dominate smuggling to and within Europe, even overshadowing their erstwhile mentors, the Italian mafia. Smugglers are smugglers, and the commodity on any given day shifts with demand, whether it is narcotics, weapons, fuel, stolen goods — or people. And the current conflict opened the floodgates of people seeking to leave Kosovo for safety. That in turn generated a smuggling boom so great that the Albanian clans had to turn desperate customers away...

The Albanians and the Italians simultaneously have a symbiotic and competitive relationship. The fares take business from the mafia, but they also provide invaluable services...
Albanian clans or "fares" run multinational operations. They have or could possibly take control of the entire Albanian government.

Leading French criminologist Xavier Raufer has written the book: "The Albanian Mafia" - he says Albanian guerrillas and the local mafia are indistinguishable.

Rudolph Giuliani [former mayor of New York] was confronted with Albanian Mafia threats in New York back in the 1980's as a Federal prosecutor.
Albanians who take to crime have created new and unique problems for some law-enforcement officers around the country. Language and a code of silence have protected the Albanian-American crime factions from outside penetration. "They are real secretive" says a detective...
Andy Thibault, columnist, of the Law Tribune Newspapers, wrote that Joe V. (aka Zef Vulevic) learned to borrow money when he worked at Mario's on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. He started his culinary career there 20 years ago. Thibault goes on to say:
"Joe V rubbed elbows with a lot of tough guys," a cop told me. "They're pretty tough guys. Some of them have racketeering involvements."

Big donors to Connecticut Public Television might remember Joe V from his appearance two years ago at the Bond Hotel in Hartford, where he served buffalo tenderloin and buffalo sausage at a fundraising party.

His customers, Joe V told Hartford Courant feature writer Pat Seremet, aka Party Patty, "go for the heavier meats."
M. Bozinovich of serbianna.com wrote an excellent summary of some of the current information about how dangerous and widespread the Muslim Albanian Mafia has become. He calls them "The New Islamic Mafia." He recounts some history, for example, when two Albanian mobsters killed two employees who crossed them at the famous New York City strip club - Scores:
A 1996 murder of a waiter, Jonathon Segal, and a bouncer, Michael Greco, in New York's Scores restaurant illustrates the indifference and haste with which Albanian assassins kill: two ethnic Albanians employed as Gambino family assassins opened fire on the waiter and bouncer after instigating an argument over quality of service they got in the restaurant.
Given the following list of circumstantial evidence:
  1. Zef Vulevic's Albanian heritage - he is from a first generation Albanian family. His legal name: Vulevic is Serbo-Croatian, however, his family name: Vulaj is Albanian.
  2. Vulevic was having significant financial and legal problems. And perhaps had a need to use a mob loan shark.
  3. He had a feisty and abrasive personality.
  4. He had a habit of borrowing money.
  5. He frequently "rubbed elbows" with mob types.
  6. The murder was extremely brutal. His body was cut into seven pieces. There was no serious attempt to hide the body, perhaps to "send a message."
  7. There have been no apparent investigative leads in the month since his body was found.
  8. There are indications that more than one person was involved in the crime.
  9. Ethnic 'code of silence' in effect?
Combine all of this with the high visibility of the Vulevic/Vulaj family and Zef Vulevic in the Albanian community and New York metro area with their multiple high profile Italian restaurants.

The overlap between Vulevic's career and the Albanian mob looms significant. Therefore, based on the weight of the circumstantial evidence it looks like the mob and most likely the Albanian Mafia had a hand in the murder of Zef Vulevic. No other scenario fits this crime and the facts we have at this time.

And the Winner is...The Albanian Mafia(PDF) [Washington Quarterly]
Albanian mob invades Italy [balkanpeace.org]

Danbury Murder Mystery-Update #6 [May 3, 2004]
Danbury Murder Mystery-Update #5 [May 3, 2004]
Albanian Mafia: Zef Vulevic Murder Update [Aug. 21, 2004]
The Rudaj Organization aka: The Albanian Mafia [Nov. 1, 2004]
Albanian Mafia Boss Denied Bail [Dec. 10, 2004]

Update Jan. 12, 2006:
Alex Rudaj - Albanian Mafia - Convicted in Racketeering Trial [TJN, Jan. 5, 2006]