James M. Elbert, III, 28, of Flint, entered the guilty plea before United States District Court Judge Matthew F. Leitman. Elbert’s co-defendant, Steven J. Bridges, Jr. previously pleaded guilty to kidnapping and brandishing a firearm before Judge Leitman on July 17, 2017.
According to court documents, Elbert, a drug dealer, traveled from Arkansas to Michigan to collect a drug debt from the victim. Elbert and Bridges, who were both armed with firearms, kidnapped the victim from a Flint Township apartment complex. Elbert and Bridges then tied the victim up, placed a plastic bag over his head, and transported him to a vacant house in Flint.
Once at the vacant house, Elbert and Bridges 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 to the victim if his debt was not paid. Officers with the Flint Township Police Department ultimately 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.
“We are focusing our resources on the most violent offenders in the Flint area in hopes of improving the quality of life for residents,” Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel L. Lemisch said. “Armed kidnapping is one of the most serious violations of public safety, making people feel vulnerable in their own neighborhoods and communities. We will bring strong federal penalties against those who prey on citizens in the Eastern District of Michigan.”
“The FBI is pleased to have assisted the Flint Township Police Department in bringing Mr. Elbert to justice,” said David P. Gelios, Special Agent in Charge, Detroit Division of the FBI. “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.”
“This case once again demonstrates the commitment to cooperation between local police agencies and their Federal partners. 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,” Chief of Police of the Flint Township Police Department George N. Sippert said.
Elbert, who has been designated as an Armed Career Criminal because of his prior record, faces at least 15 years and up to life imprisonment for the kidnapping and felon in possession of ammunition charges. Sentencing has been scheduled for February 15, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. before Judge Leitman.
Bridges faces at least 7 years and up to life imprisonment for the kidnapping and brandishing a firearm charges. Sentencing has been scheduled for February 26, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. before Judge Leitman.
The case was investigated by the Flint Township Police Department with assistance from special agents of the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Anthony P. Vance.