Kidnapper sentenced to nearly 22 years in federal prison

FLINT TWP. —James M. Elbert, III, 29, of Flint was sentenced to 260 months (21. years) in federal prison for kidnapping and being a felon in possession of ammunition, U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider announced on February 16 in a press statement.

Schneider was joined in the announcement by Jeffery E. Peterson, acting special agent in charge of the Detroit Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and George N. Sippert, Chief of Police of the Flint Township Police Department.

U.S. District Court Judge Matthew F. Leitman imposed sentence on J Elbert following his guilty plea to kidnapping and felon in possession of ammunition. Because of his prior record, Elbert was designated as an armed career criminal and a career offender, which subjected him to a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 15 years in prison. Judge Leitman also sentenced Elbert to three years of federal supervised release following his term of incarceration.

According to court documents, Elbert, a drug dealer, traveled from Arkansas to Michigan to collect a drug debt from the victim. Elbert and his co-defendant Steven J. Bridges, who were both armed with firearms, kidnapped the victim, 58, from the Flint Heights Terrace apartment complex. 3064 Miller Road in Flint Township. Police were notified at about 10:47 p.m. on Friday, March 31, 2017, according to a press release.

Elbert and Bridges then tied the victim up, placed a plastic bag over his head, and transported him to a vacant house on Dwight Street in Flint. They took the victim to the basement where they tied him to a chair and placed a gag in his mouth, which they secured by wrapping tape around the victim’s head and neck.

During the kidnapping, Elbert made telephone calls to the victim’s family threatening to kill him if his debt was not paid.

Flint Township Police investigators learned of the victim’s location and rescued him before he was subjected to further harm. The victim was transported to a local hospital for treatment and was later released in good condition.

“Armed kidnapping is one of the most serious violations of public safety, making people vulnerable in their own neighborhoods,” Schneider said. “We will bring strong federal penalties against those who prey on citizens all across the Eastern District of Michigan.”

Peterson added: “The FBI is pleased to have assisted the Flint Township Police Department in bringing Mr. Elbert to justice. This incident once again underscores the dangers we face from illegal drugs and the violent crimes that often accompany drug trafficking activities. While dangers remain so long as illegal drugs are on our streets, the public should know that these criminals will not escape the reach of law enforcement, even when they come from hundreds of miles away.”

Chief Sippert expressed gratitude for support from the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The case was investigated by the Flint Township Police Department with assistance from special agents of the FBI. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Anthony P. Vance.

“This case once again demonstrates the commitment to cooperation between local police agencies and their federal partners,” Chief Sippert said. “Law enforcement is most often successful when combining resources.”

At the time of the arrest, Sippert also publicly praised his night-shift officers for their efforts within three to four hours that led to locating and rescuing the victim.

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