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Missing Chinese exchange student found alive in Utah

A cyber kidnapping scheme tricked the 17-year-old boy's parents into transferring approximately $80,000 to bank accounts in China.
Missing Chinese exchange student found alive in Utah
Posted at 10:19 AM, Jan 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-02 11:19:15-05

Utah police have located a missing exchange student from China who's believed to be a victim of cyber kidnappers.

Riverdale Police, along with the help of several other law enforcement agencies, announced Sunday that they had found the 17-year-old isolated in a tent at the direction of the kidnappers.

After learning that he had visited the area, and due to concern about his welfare, Riverdale Police contacted the Weber County Sheriff’s Office, which deployed its search and rescue drone team. They began searching overnight Saturday for the possible campsite of the juvenile.

Utah Department of Public Safety Aero Bureau was also deployed to search a very large area along the Wasatch front in Brigham City. Brigham City police also assisted in the search efforts.

Riverdale Police Detective Sergeant Engstrom hiked on foot up the mountainside and came across the victim’s tent in a wooded area. Sergeant Engstrom contacted the victim inside the tent and found he was alive but very cold and scared.

The victim was relieved to see police. He 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.

Brigham City Fire Department responded to the scene and checked the victim for hypothermia and cleared him from any major medical concerns.

SEE MORE: Annual report shows a record 146B cyber threats detected last year

Due to the false kidnapping scheme, his Chinese parents ended up transferring approximately $80,000 to bank accounts in China due to the fake threats.

The victim only wanted to speak to his family to ensure they were safe and requested a warm cheeseburger, both of which were accomplished on the way back to Riverdale.

The investigation is ongoing.

The Riverdale Police Department wants to inform the public in regard to cyber kidnapping. If you become a target of cyber kidnapping, do not send money. Discontinue contact with the suspects, and contact police immediately.

The teen had been reported missing Dec. 28 by the school he was attending. His parents, who live in China, say they had received a photo and a note saying their son had been kidnapped and a ransom had been demanded.

On Saturday, Riverdale police said their investigation had led them to believe that the teen may be camping somewhere along the Wasatch Front in Salt Lake City. They provided photos of camping gear, including a tent, that he had recently purchased. Police could not account for that gear, leading them to believe he was using it to camp out. Authorities expressed their concern for the teen if he was indeed camping in the extreme cold weather. They asked people to keep an eye out for him in wooded areas and camping spots.

Provo Police reported that on Dec. 20, officers had made contact with the teen, who told them he wanted to go camping. Authorities arranged for him to be returned home. They said the student was already being manipulated by the cyber kidnappers at that time.

This story was originally published by Scripps News Salt Lake City.


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