Florida authorities arrest suspect after Walmart attempted child kidnapping incident
Lee County Sheriff’s Office arrested suspect Pablo Pintueles Hernandez and after he was allegedly recorded grabbing a child in a Walmart store and pulling him away.
Utah police have revealed that the Chinese exchange student who went missing last week and was found over the weekend may have been a victim of an international cyber kidnapping scheme.
“We believed the victim was isolating himself at the direction of the cyberkidnappers in a tent,” Riverdale police said. Investigators have said they are working with the FBI and U.S. Embassy in China to find the kidnappers.
“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 cyberkidnapping,” a department spokesperson explained.
“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 Police Department,” the spokesperson added.
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Kai Zhuang, 17, went missing on Dec. 28, 2023, when he was “forcefully taken” and “held against his will,” police said, but they later determined he left on his own due to the cyberscam. Zhuang’s host family reported him missing at 8:30 p.m. Thursday.
Riverdale Police issued a missing endangered advisory early Friday morning for 17-year-old Kai Zhuang. (Riverdale Police Department)
Police issued an endangered missing person advisory on Friday after the department received a call from the local school. Zhuang’s parents then received a photo of their son along with a ransom letter.
Police in a different Utah city found Zhuang with camping gear on Dec. 20 and returned him to his host family over concerns that the weather was too extreme, but Zhuang was already in communication with the kidnappers, USA Today reported.
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Zhuang’s host family said he had been home the night before and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. They heard him moving around the house early Thursday morning, but didn’t have any concerns about it, FOX 59 reported.
Kai Zhuang went missing on Thursday, Dec. 28. He was last seen at 3:30 a.m. (Riverdale City Utah)
The host family confirmed that his camping gear was missing after reporting they had not heard from him, and police tracked his phone to the Brigham Canyon area, where they conducted an extensive search using drones and helicopters while Riverdale Police Detective Sgt. Derek Engstrom hiked into the area, where he found Zhuang’s tent on Sunday.
“Sgt. Engstrom contacted the victim inside the tent and found he was alive but very cold, and scared,” the police said. “The victim was relieved to see police.”
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Police soon connected Zhuang’s disappearance to an increasingly popular scam that targets exchange students, overwhelmingly Chinese exchange students, in which the kidnappers convince the student and their families separately that the family is under threat and then use the student’s disappearance to extort money from the family.
Main Street, Brigham City, Utah (Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Zhuang’s family had transferred around $80,000 to bank accounts in China after receiving threats from the kidnappers and receiving photos of Zhuang that made it appear he had been kidnapped and was in danger.
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The scammers may have used video conferences to continue monitoring Zhuang as he remained isolated during the incident. Police have not yet identified any suspects and continue their search.
“The cyberkidnappers continue to extort the family by using fear tactics, photos and voice recordings of the victim, leading the family to believe the kidnappers are with the victim causing them harm,” the police said.
Peter Aitken is a Fox News Digital reporter with a focus on national and global news.