DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A Detroit-area man who illegally entered the U.S. more than a decade ago has been sentenced to 41 months in prison for making loans to fellow Albanians at interest rates of 45 percent or more.

Tomo Duhanaj, 44, was sentenced earlier this week in Detroit federal court after pleading guilty in December to charges of making extortionate extensions of credit and money laundering.

Federal prosecutors describe Duhanaj, an undocumented immigrant from Kosovo, as a “tough guy” in the Albanian community who made loans at exorbitant rates.

“This defendant used his contacts in his community to prey upon people who were desperate for cash,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said in a statement.

According to court documents, Duhanaj loaned hundreds of thousands of dollars at high interest rates, sometimes exceeding 100 percent per year, to community members with the understanding that failure to repay the loans would result in violence. Prosecutors say Duhanaj concealed the proceeds of these activities, in part, by placing assets in the names of other people.

“Loaning cash at excessively high interest rates while enforcing repayment through violence or threat is a federal crime,” FBI Special Agent Paul Abbate said in a statement. “Those who prey upon members of the community in this manner and act outside the bounds of the law will be brought to justice.”

Duhanaj’s attorney maintain the borrowers agreed to the terms of the loans and weren’t coerced.

Duhanaj will be deported to Kosovo at the end of his sentence. He’ll get credit for more than a year in custody.

The case was investigated by FBI and IRS agents.

TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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