A Brooklyn man and a Staten Island man were convicted of the murder and extortion of an Ozone Park business owner last Friday.
Ppassim “Big Sam” Elder, 42, of Staten Island and Wilbert Bryant, 57, of Brooklyn were charged with extortion, bank fraud, firearms and murder offenses following the 2017 killing of Queens businessowner Hani Kasem.
“With today’s verdict, a jury has held the defendants accountable for their heinous crimes, including the murder of a Queens business owner while attempting to collect a debt they claimed was owed by the victim’s son,” said acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Jacquelyn M. Kasulis in a statement.
Kasem owned Garden Valley Distributors, a deli products distributorship on 101st Avenue, and his son borrowed money from Elder to support the business. When they were unable to repay the debt, Elder waged a campaign of intimidation against the whole family on several occasions, prosecutors alleged.
Finally, on Oct. 23, 2017, three men in suits, including Bryant, showed up to the business, brandished a firearm, pistol-whipped the son and fatally shot Kasem in the face.
Elder and Bryant were also convicted of bank fraud conspiracy and Elder additionally for stealing his attorney’s identity and lying to federal officials.
The case, which was decided by a federal jury in Brooklyn after a three-week trial, was part of the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative, which brings together all levels of law enforcement and communities to reduce violent crime.