BROOKLYN, NY – A Staten Islander was one of two defendants convicted Friday of extortion and murder of a Queens business owner.
Ppassim (Big Sam) Elder, 42, of Staten Island, and Wilbert Bryant, 57, of Brooklyn, were tried before US District Judge William F. Kuntz II convicted in Brooklyn Federal Court of extortion, bank fraud, firearms and murder. The two men face life imprisonment if convicted.
“With today’s verdict, a jury held the defendants accountable for their heinous crimes, including the murder of a business owner in Queens while trying to collect a debt allegedly owed by the victim’s son,” the acting US attorney said for the Eastern District of New York Jacquelyn M. Kasulis.
On the morning of October 23, 2017, Bryant and two others went to Garden Valley Distributors, a family-run wholesale company in Ozone Park, Queens, and said Elder sent them to collect his money, prosecutors said.
Earlier this year, Elder gave Hani Kasem’s son money to support the business, the authorities said. When Elder requested full repayment, the son could not repay the debt, prosecutors said.
Elder then began a campaign of intimidation against the son and his family, prosecutors alleged. On one occasion, Elder paid co-conspirators to throw a stone through a window in the victim’s home, authorities said. On another side, Elder broke into the family home and intimidated family members of the victim, prosecutors said. Eventually Elder sent Bryant and two co-conspirators to the Garden Valley store, where they waved a gun, flogged the son with a pistol, and fatally shot Kasem in the face, prosecutors alleged.
Elder and Bryant were also convicted of bank fraud conspiracy for lying to banks about the real owner of certain bank accounts, which enabled Elder to defraud innocent victims across the country, including an elderly man who lost over $ 30,000 when he was believed it was him buying a car and another person who had lost over $ 150,000 when they were betrayed for believing they were buying two properties, prosecutors said.
Elder was also convicted of crimes committed after he was arrested, including stealing the identity of his attorney and lying by federal officials, authorities said.
The case was brought under Project Safe Neighborhoods, a program that brings together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime. As part of the program, US attorneys work in partnership with law enforcement agencies at the federal, state, local, and tribal levels and their local communities to develop effective crime-fighting strategies.
The Office’s Organized Crime and Gangs Division was handling the case. US assistant attorneys Keith D. Edelman, Genny Ngai and Anna L. Karamigios led the prosecution.