Missing Chinese exchange student, 17, is found ‘very cold and scared’ inside a tent on a mountainside after being ‘cyber kidnapped’

Missing Chinese exchange student, 17, is found ‘very cold and scared’ inside a tent on a mountainside after being ‘cyber kidnapped’

A missing Chinese exchange student was found ‘very cold and scared’ inside a tent on a Utah mountainside after cops said he was ‘cyber kidnapped.’ 

Kai Zhuang, 17, was discovered in the Brigham City Canyon area on Sunday night after he was last seen at around 3:30am on Thursday.

Multiple law enforcement agencies located Zhuang after the Riverdale Police Department asked the public to help find him on Friday. 

They considered the teen endangered after his parents in China told authorities that they received a ransom letter and picture of their son. 

The host family that Zhuang was staying with in Riverdale told police that they were unaware he had gone missing, and that they last saw him the night before and heard him the next morning. 

Kai Zhuang, 17, was discovered in the Brigham City Canyon area on Sunday night after he was last seen at around 3:30am on Thursday

Zhuang was found in bitterly cold conditions as authorities believe he was the victim of a cyber kidnapping. The perpetrators sent a ransom note and picture of the teen to his parents in china

Zhuang was found inside a tent in bitterly cold conditions as authorities believe he was the victim of a cyber kidnapping. The perpetrators sent a ransom note and picture of the teen to his parents in china

Riverdale Police Chief Casey Warren said that Zhuang was ‘manipulated and controlled’ by ‘cyber kidnappers’ who made him believe that his family in China was threatened and that they had paid a ransom amount of $80,000. 

The local police department worked alongside the FBI, the U.S. Embassy in China, and Chinese officials to bring Zhuang to safety as they began searching for the possible campsite of the juvenile on Saturday. 

Riverdale Police asked that the Weber County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Drone team step in as they were concerned for Zhuang’s welfare in the bitterly cold conditions.   

Detective Sergeant Engstrom hiked on foot up the mountainside and came across the victim’s tent in a wooded area before he approached Zhuang inside. 

The teen was found ‘alive but very cold and scared’ and was relieved when authorities discovered him.

‘The victim had no heat source inside the tent, only a heat blanket, a sleeping bag, limited food and water and several phones that were presumed to be used to carry out the cyber kidnapping,’ Warren said in a statement.  

The teen was reported missing on Thursday, after his parents told officials he looked to have been kidnapped and that the perpetrators were demanding a ransom. A dayslong search ensued, during which the local police department worked alongside the FBI, the U.S. Embassy in China, and Chinese officials to bring Zhuang home safely

Zhaung was found camped out in Brigham City Canyon area after Riverdale Police, the FBI, U.S. Embassy in China, and Chinese officials searched for him

The teen was last seen at around 3:30am on Thursday, after cops said he fell victim to a sordid 'cyber-kidnapping' scam that saw schemers trick his parents - who live overseas - into believing he was in danger

During a press conference, Warren said that Zhuang’s parents, who live in China, contacted his high school after they received the ransom letter

Cyber Kidnapping 

  • Perpetrators contact victims in search of large amounts of money as they claim that their families are in danger or need help 
  • Suspects are known to specifically target foreign exchange students 
  • They instruct the youngsters to isolate themselves and document themselves in distress before they send proof of distress to their family members
  • Large amounts of money are requested to be wired to the perpetrators in return 
  • They contact family members and say that their loved one is being held captive or has gone missing  

He was checked for signs of hypothermia and was eventually cleared of any major medical conditions by the Brigham City Fire Department. 

According to KSL, Zhaung was able to speak to his family and was given a warm cheeseburger before he was transported to the Riverdale Police Department. 

When Zhaung first went missing he was reported to have been ‘forcefully taken’ from his home in Utah and being held against his will, but Police did not believe that was the case.

During a press conference, Warren said that Zhuang’s parents, who live in China, contacted his high school.  

A Utah Endangered Missing Persons Advisory had earlier been issued after the boy was ‘forcefully taken from his home and held against his will’ from the Riverdale home where he had been staying – about 30 minutes north of Salt Lake City. 

Warren revealed that through this investigation he and his department learned more about the extent of cyber kidnapping after the FBI briefed them on the recent occurrences of the crime. 

Suspects that initiate the crime commonly threaten young foreign exchange students and their families for money as they instruct the students to isolate themselves. 

Zhuang was captured in CCTV footage as he shopped for camping gear before he was discovered on Sunday

Zhuang was captured in CCTV footage as he shopped for camping gear before he was discovered on Sunday 

Authorities scaling the cold mountainside as they looked for the teen who was found 'very cold and scared'

Authorities scaling the cold mountainside as they looked for the teen who was found ‘very cold and scared’

They then ask the youngsters to take pictures of themselves in distress and being ‘held captive’ and send them to their families. 

Prior to his rescue, the Provo Police Department had an encounter with Zhuang and were concerned for the teen’s safety after he tried to set up a campsite. 

Zhuang was captured in CCTV footage as he shopped for camping gear before he was discovered.

Authorities also discovered Zhaung’s phone and bank records and tracked his purchases in the last month, which included various camping materials. 

It is unclear how long Zhaung might have been in contact with the perpetrator and if he has been brought back to his host family. 

DailyMail.com contacted the Riverdale Police Department for more information but did not hear back in time for this report and the investigation is actively being investigated. 

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