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Feds nab alleged Mayfair loan sharks

Federal racketeering charges were filed last week against nine alleged bookmakers and loan sharks who conducted their nefarious and sometimes violent business inside several Mayfair shops, authorities said.

The illegal operation was largely based on the 7000 block of Frankford Ave. inside the Lion Bar & Grill, First England Pizza, the former Blackbird Cafe and its successor, Ylli’s 2 Brothers, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release on Friday.

All nine suspects were arrested that morning, including city residents Ylli Gjeli, 48; Fatimir Mustafaraj, 41; George Markakis, 43; Gezim Asllani, 34; Rezart Rahmi Telushi, 40; Eneo Jahaj, 26; and Ardit Pone, 35; as well as Erion Murataj, 35, of Huntingdon Valley; and Brian Jackson, 35, of Harleysville. The indictment charges them with racketeering conspiracy, collection of unlawful debt, making extortionate loans, using extortion to collect loans, operating an illegal gambling business and illegal firearms possession.

According to the charging document, the men made and collected on loans with usurious interest rates; used intimidation, threats and violence to make and collect on those loans; and made loans to bettors whose debts were incurred through the bookmaking portion of the operation.

The defendants allegedly threatened victims with weapons such as a gun and a hatchet and told victims that if they did not pay their debts, someone would kill them or “break your legs” or harm their families, the U.S. Attorney said.

The indictment identifies Gjeli as the “boss” of the organization and Mustafaraj as a leader and the “muscle.” They allegedly financed the business and used violence against subordinate members and associates of the organization as well as customers. Markakis also was a leader who directed other members in the gambling side of the business, the indictment alleges. Other defendants were identified as “collectors” and “bookies.”

Many of the defendants reportedly are natives of Albania, although Markakis is nicknamed “George the Greek,” authorities said. All defendants are naturalized citizens of the United States. Gjeli and Mustafaraj face up to life in prison if convicted, while the others face up to 20 years in prison. Trial dates have not been set. ••

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