9 accused of gambling, loansharking
PHILADELPHIA — A Philadelphia-area gambling ring used a gun and hatchet to threaten at least one customer as they operated out of bars, pizzerias and restaurants, federal authorities charged on Friday.
The racketeering indictment said one person alleged to be a ringleader, Ylli Gjeli, slammed a hatchet onto the table as a customer pulled his hand away and put a gun to his head while threatening him in the basement of a bar.
The gambling and loansharking activities allegedly took place at several Philadelphia-area bars, pizza parlors and coffee shops.
Gjeli, 48, and eight other defendants were arrested Friday morning. All are from the Philadelphia area. It was not clear whether they have lawyers.
The case is being prosecuted by the Justice Department's organized crime and gang section.
“The defendants allegedly victimized people twice over,” said FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Ed Hanko, “preying on them financially by providing loans at outrageous interest rates to those unable to obtain them from traditional sources, then using threats and violence to collect on these illegal loans.”
The defendants used coded language to hide their activities and patted down participants to be sure they weren't armed or wearing recording devices, the indictment said.
Gjeli and the other alleged ringleader, 41-year-old Fatimir Mustafaraj, face life in prison if convicted of all of the charges, while the others face a maximum of 20 years, authorities said.