Chinese exchange student Kai Zhuang, 17, who fell victim to a cyber kidnapping scam resulting in his parents being extorted for $80,000, has been found alive but distressed in a tent in Utah’s wilderness, according to authorities.
Kai was reported missing when his parents in China informed his Utah host high school about the apparent kidnapping. The cyber kidnappers followed a familiar pattern, instructing Kai to isolate himself and provide staged photos of captivity to extort money from his family.
Law enforcement, analyzing bank records and phone ping data, located Kai in a tent about 25 miles north of Brigham City, raising concerns about his exposure to cold weather. A sergeant hiking on foot discovered Kai’s tent, lacking a heat source but containing essential survival items.
Kai, alive but affected by the cold, expressed a desire for a warm meal and to communicate with his family, who had paid the ransom. Riverdale police, collaborating with the FBI, the US embassy in China, and Chinese officials, played a pivotal role in the rescue. The Chinese embassy issued a warning about virtual kidnapping and other telecom fraud, highlighting a trend of cyber kidnappers targeting foreign exchange students, particularly from China.