Brooklyn man gets life in prison for fatal shooting of Ozone Park businessman in 2017: Feds

Police at the Ozone Park crime scene where Garden Valley owner Hani Kasem was shot and killed in October 2017. (Photo by Robert Stridiron)

The killers of an Ozone Park businessman were sentenced by a federal judge in Brooklyn to a combined 242 years in prison Wednesday, Feb. 9, For the “ruthless” fatal shooting of 64-year-old Hani Kasem in 2017.

Ppassim “Big Sam” Elder, 42, of Staten Island, and Wilbert Bryant, 57, of Brooklyn were convicted on murder and extortion charges in October following a three-week trial before U.S. District Judge William Kuntz.

Elder was sentenced to 202 years in prison and his co-conspirator Bryant was sentenced to 40 years imprisonment, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

As proven at trial, on the morning of Oct. 23, 2017, Bryant and two other perpetrators walked into Garden Valley on 99th Street near 101st Avenue, a family-owned distribution business in Ozone Park. The perpetrators said that “Big Sam” sent them to collect his money.

Earlier that year, Elder had given Kasem’s son money, which the son used to support the business. When Elder demanded full repayment, the son was unable to repay his debt because much of the money had been used to purchase merchandise for Green Valley. Elder began a campaign of intimidation against the son and the family, according to federal prosecutors.

On one occasion, Elder paid co-conspirators to throw a rock through the window of the victim’s home. On another, Elder barged into the family home, intimidating members of his family, prosecutors said. Finally, Elder dispatched Bryant and two co-conspirators into Garden Valley where the perpetrators brandished a firearm, pistol-whipped the son, and fatally shot the father in the face.

In addition to the Kasem murder, Elder extorted another person whose brother had stolen the proceeds of a fraud scheme committed by Elder. Although the victim was not involved in the theft, Elder nonetheless punched him in the face in front of his daughters, breaking and bloodying his nose in order to “send a message” to the victim’s brother.

Elder and Bryant were convicted of bank fraud conspiracy for lying to banks about the true owner of several bank accounts, which permitted Elder to defraud innocent victims across the country, including an elderly gentleman who lost more than $30,000 when he was tricked into believing he was purchasing a car and another individual who lost more than $150,000 when he was defrauded into believing he was purchasing two real estate properties.

Elder was also convicted of crimes committed after his arrest in this case, including stealing his attorney’s identity and lying to federal officials.

“The defendants are guilty of multiple crimes of violence and fraud that victimized many persons, including the patriarch of a Queens family who was gunned down in his place of business,” U.S. Attorney Peace said. “The defendants will deservedly serve lengthy prison sentences for their ruthless and vicious conduct.”