Two Chinese Nationals Indicted on Federal Kidnapping and Extortion Charges in Scheme Involving $2 Million Ransom Demand
LOS ANGELES – Two Chinese nationals have been indicted on federal charges that allege they kidnapped another Chinese national and attempted to collect $2 million in ransom from the victim’s family in exchange for the victim’s life.
Guangyao Yang, 25, and Peicheng Shen, 33, whose last known U.S. residences were in West Covina, were charged in a four-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury on February 22. The indictment charges the two defendants with conspiracy to kidnap, kidnapping, attempted extortion in violation of the Hobbs Act, and threat by foreign communication.
According to court documents, Shen, using an alias, met the victim, a Santa Ana resident, several times on the pretense that Shen would help the victim collect a debt from another individual. During their third meeting, at a San Gabriel shopping center on July 16, 2018, Shen allegedly kidnapped the victim and then, along with Yang, held the victim hostage at a house in Corona. At that house, Shen and Yang allegedly confined the victim by binding his legs together, taping his eyes shut, restraining his arms behind him, and confining him in a closet.
The day after the kidnapping, the victim’s father received a demand for a $2 million ransom in exchange for the victim’s life, with the money to be deposited into three Chinese bank accounts within three hours, court documents allege. The victim’s father also received photographs of the victim, who was physically restrained in a closet, according to court documents.
Investigators believe the victim died during the course of the kidnapping, and they are seeking the public’s assistance in locating his body.
The indictment further alleges that on July 18, defendants Shen and Yang attempted to conceal evidence of the crime. Specifically, defendants Shen and Yang drove to the area of Mojave, California, to bury or otherwise dispose of the victim’s body or other physical evidence involved in the crime. Further, on that same day, Shen allegedly had the closet of the Corona house re-carpeted. Yang also performed an Internet search to determine, in effect, how fast a corpse decomposes in soil, court papers state.
Shen and Yang currently are believed to be in China.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The two kidnapping-related charges carry a statutory maximum penalty of life in federal prison. The extortion and threat by foreign communication charges each carry a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
The investigation into the kidnapping and extortion is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Julia Choe of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section and Special Assistant United States Attorney Ryan Adams of the General Crimes Section.
The FBI is seeking information regarding the suspects charged in this case and to determine the whereabouts of the victim. While search efforts are focused in the Mojave Desert, the FBI would like to hear from anyone who may have information about this alleged crime or about associated suspicious activity. Anyone with information may call the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office at (310) 477-6565.