FLINT (WJRT) (2/16/2018) - A Flint man will spend more than 21 years in federal prison after being convicted of kidnapping another man and holding him hostage to collect a drug debt.
James Elbert III, 29, received his sentenced on Friday after pleading guilty to charges of kidnapping and being a felon in possession of ammunition. He was designated an armed career criminal, giving him a minimum 15-year sentence.
Court documents say Elbert was actively dealing drugs and traveled from Arkansas back to Michigan to collect a drug debt from the victim.
With help from an accomplice, Elbert kidnapped the victim from a Flint Township apartment complex, tied him up, placed a plastic bag over his head and drove him to a vacant house in Flint.
Once there, Elbert and his accomplice took the victim into the basement and tied him to a chair. They placed a gag in his mouth by wrapping tape around the victim's head and neck.
Elbert called the victim's family multiple times during the ordeal and threatened to kill the victim if they didn't come up with money to pay off his debt.
Eventually, officers with the Flint Township Police Department learned where the victim was being held hostage and rescued him before he received any serious injuries. The victim was treated and released from an area hospital that day.
“Armed kidnapping is one of the most serious violations of public safety, making people vulnerable in their own neighborhoods," said U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider. "We will bring strong federal penalties against those who prey on citizens all across the Eastern District of Michigan.”
Jeffery E. Peterson, acting special agent in charge of the Detroit Division of the FBI, said the incident highlights the dangers communities face with the sale of illegal drugs -- and the violent lengths dealers are willing to go if they feel disrespected.
“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,” Peterson said.
Flint Township Police Chief George Sippert thanked the federal authorities for their assistance bringing justice in the case.
“This case once again demonstrates the commitment to cooperation between local police agencies and their federal partners," he said. "Law enforcement is most often successful when combining resources. We are grateful for the support of the FBI and the commitment and dedication to our community’s safety exhibited by the efforts of the United States Attorney’s Office.”