NewsChinese exchange student in Utah falls prey to 'cyber kidnapping', the family pays $80,000 ransom

Chinese exchange student in Utah falls prey to 'cyber kidnapping', the family pays $80,000 ransom

Chinese student kidnapped in USA
Chinese student kidnapped in USA
Images source: © Police in Rivendale

10:52 AM EST, January 2, 2024

The school reported the disappearance of the 17-year-old Kai Zhuang last Friday. Zhuang participated in a scientific exchange program between Chinese students and the USA. In the early stages, the Riverdale police speculated that the boy had been forcibly taken from his dormitory.

Zhuang was found hungry, cold, and frightened on a Sunday night. He had been spending his nights in a tent under the impression that his family in China was in danger and he needed to isolate himself for their protection.

Meanwhile, his family received a ransom note and a picture of Kai Zhuang. The message also included information suggesting that he had been kidnapped and was in danger. Before the boy was found, the family transferred $80,000 to accounts based in China.

Family of kidnapped Chinese student in the USA pays $80,000 ransom

Police located the missing boy by tracing his phone calls and accessing his electronic devices. As the police later reported, the teenager was found "alive, but very cold and scared". He was discovered in a makeshift campsite in the mountains near Brigham City.

Zhuang was reportedly relieved to see the police when they arrived. He had no heat source in the tent, save for a blanket and a sleeping bag, and he was short of food and water.

Once Zhuang confirmed the safety of his family, with whom he had connected, he requested the authorities for a sandwich. While searching for the young Chinese man, the Riverdale police collaborated with the FBI, the US embassy in China, and Chinese officials.

The police disclosed that the FBI had encountered similar instances of crime. Other students on foreign exchange programs, particularly those from China, have been victims of comparable "cyber kidnappings" in the USA.

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