On the Ground in Albania Chasing the Mob World

Amazing global investigation about Albanian mob by@kevinjayheldman #longreads http://bit.ly/ONyMGl

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The Week’s Best Longreads: The Daily Beast Picks for June 16, 2012

http://www.thedailybeast.com/…/the-week-s-best-longreads-the-dailybeast-…– longreads-sessions-120614-tease  Kevin Heldman, Capital New York An investigation into the heart of Albanian-American organized crime.

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Wow. Just finished piece on Albanian gangs in @capitalnewyork. Amazing. It’s GTA: Liberty City come alive. Read now: http://t.co/LbC3efeb
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     I feel, felt, a little like a low rent John McPhee on the cops and robbers beat — 50,000 words on how Albanians settle beefs and toss silencers —  but this is my final story in a long series on Albanian transnational crime in New York, in the US, and overseas.

This article, Part I, goes in very deep on a specific NY Albanian crew and takes you, took me, all over Albania reporting on this world.  I got as deep there as I could as a reporter — gave it my all — somebody in or of that crime world or some agent in IOC2, DEA, FBI or a lawyer, prosecutor out there who’s on these cases may know this world deeper, but I’m already punching way above the weight of a press pass, hey tell me your story, I don’t have a gun, money, subpoena power or a 5k letter to give you (that’s my shout out to all you  ridiculously hard working US prosecutors and defense attorneys on this and related cases — don’t know how you do it).

FBI NY Balkan Task Force: probably have a restraining order on me, this guy again, leave us alone already, be a normal reporter, go become a security guard or something if you want street action but you all would appreciate this account and especially Part II so if you see this check it out.

Part II, to be published pretty soon, will explain why all this matters, document the scope of this kind of crime — kind of say that this is not just arbitrary let’s write about Albanian crime because it’s novel — there is a shockingly established criminal subculture here that is very serious; I resisted believing it for the longest time because it seemed so unreal but it’s there, in mind numbing so many guns in mouths over and over again detail.

Here’e the link to the story on Capital New York.  I think it’s good, never sure on these things, you rewrite and reread and can’t read any more so much you lose perspective, but it is honest and I did work like mad on it.  If it’s not good I’m in trouble because I suck at life and I’m supposed to be good at this so… you know, there’s that. Ah, I always have to go too far.

On the Ground In Albania Chasing the Mob World

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Driving the roads, walking the streets in Albania November 2011

Yes, I am here and yes I will write, write the hell out of this place, this article. I’m 46, been to Nicaragua, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Thailand, England, Afghanistan, Korea, Brazil, Vietnam, maybe some others that I’m forgetting — I’ve seriously been to these places — reported there, went there on mission like energy, experienced these places deeply and intimately, not just touristy type thing — always being an American has been a serious liability. They’ve hated me, that I was American. Okay, I always thought — hate me, do your thing. I’m as an American as Donald Trump, Sumiko Obata, Jonas Salk and Christopher Hitchens — meaning what the hell does that mean that I’m American. I’m Kevin Heldman, as dissimilar and similar to those folks as can be. But yet they hated me. Here, and I knock the wood of the internet cafe cubicle as I say this — this is the first place where being an American has been something positive, people have liked me for being an American.

You don’t know how many times I’ve touched my heart and they’ve touched their heart back, how many thumbs up and how many times my back, my shoulder has been held and led gently. Damn guys, damn girls — thank you. I don’t deserve it, expect it, wasn’t anticipating it but it is so nice. Good looking, Albania.

Ketjol Manoku, Albanian locked up in prison. Krasnici brothers currently on trial. Mother of the Albanian defendant devestated after a guilty verdict in the New York courtroom… That Albanian shopkeeper, kind, older and really decent who I wrote about in my first article — I see where, if I can generalize, you all come from. Albania deserves a damn good strong, single, fist clasping shoulder type hug. You all got this. Your country– libertarian, free, a little wild– it’s good here. But come on, just let me in your prisons alright. I’m a crime reporter and I go to these places, but even so and still, didn’t they say you can judge a society by how they treat their locked down.

So on I go reporting and getting to know Albania and this story for Capital New York. Funded by The Fund for Investigative Journalism. I won’t let any one down — it’s been quite quite hard and I’ve roughed it, been in situations where it’s been rough, but that is my choice and my job, supposed to get in deep and sometimes that means getting dirty. I don’t have to swagger and be tough because I’m not a gangster and have nothing to prove, nobody to impress and I don’t have to run especially and directly toward fires or crimes or trouble like a cop or firefighter with that obligation but still I am a journalist and I am that kind of journalist — I’m supposed to go deep, investigate, be as particiaptory as possible, so I will. Me and my Albanian English dictionary and my rent a car and beat up body, doing pushups in the room at night to stay fit. And the kindness of this and the other Shqiptar helping, worrying over me in this difficult to manage infrastructure. Thank you, you know who you are.

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