Two Chinese nationals indicted in California kidnapping and extortion plot


(Photo: AFP)

Two Chinese nationals have been indicted on federal kidnapping and extortion charges in the disappearance of a Costa Mesa, Calif., luxury car dealer – another Chinese national who is believed to have died during his abduction and whose body has never been found.

Guangyao Yang, 25, and Peicheng Shen, 33, who were living in West Covina, were indicted by a federal grand jury February 22, the US attorney’s office announced this week. Both men were charged with kidnapping, conspiracy to kidnap, attempted extortion and threat by foreign communication.

Yang and Shen were arrested in China and remain in custody there for their role in the crime, authorities said.

“We are working with our law enforcement counterparts to seek justice in this case,” FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.

Authorities said Shen, who was using an alias at the time, met with Ruochen “Tony” Liao, 28, several times under the pretence that he would help him collect a debt.

During their third meeting, officials said, Shen kidnapped Liao from a San Gabriel shopping centre on July 16, 2018, and then, with Yang, held him hostage at a house in Corona and attempted to collect a US$2 million ransom from his family.

The day after his abduction, Liao’s parents received two pictures of their son from his WeChat messaging app profile showing him with his legs bound, his hands restrained behind his back and his eyes taped, according to court documents.

Liao’s father told federal investigators he got a phone call a short time later and he heard his son say in Mandarin: “Father save me, help me, I have been kidnapped.”

The victim’s father said the kidnappers demanded that the ransom money be deposited in three Chinese bank accounts within 3 hours, according to court records. He said a man told him on the phone: “Your son has made me very poor. I have lost everything and suffered a divorce because of him.”

Liao is believed to have died during his kidnapping. Investigators believe that Shen and Yang drove to Mojave, Calif., July 18 to bury or otherwise dispose of the victim’s body or other physical evidence involved in the crime.

On the same day, Shen had the wardrobe of the Corona house re-carpeted, according to prosecutors. Yang also performed an internet search on how long it takes for a corpse to decompose in soil, according to court records citing the contents of Yang’s phone that Chinese authorities gave to investigators.