By Tim Jimenez
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Nine members of an alleged loan sharking and illegal gambling ring out of Northeast Philadelphia, were arrested Friday morning. Authorities say they would use violent means to collect debt, including an incident involving a hatchet.
The nine men range from as young as 26 to 48-year-old alleged Ylli Gjeli, one of the alleged leaders, all now facing racketeering and other charges after a grand jury indictment.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Salvatore Astolfi says for a decade, they were offering high-interest loans and sports betting, operating out of bars, restaurants and coffee shops across the city. And if you didn’t pay up, Astolfi says they made sure you did.
“Certainly verbal threats. There were some involving weapons that were directed towards certain victims. Again, that’s alleged in the indictment and they were repeated threats over a long period of time,” said Astolfi.
One example, authorities say Gjeli took a hatchet out and slammed it on a table as a customer took his arm away. Authorities also say he threatened that same customer by placing a gun to his head.
Gjeli and alleged strongman Fatimir Mustafaraj face possible life sentences. The others, 20 years at the most.