A 17-year-old Chinese foreign exchange student, Kai Zhuang, who went missing in Utah last week, has been found alive in the mountains near Brigham City, and authorities suspect he was the victim of cyber kidnappers.
Found inside a tent with minimal supplies, including a heat blanket, a sleeping bag, and limited food and water, Kai was described as "alive but very cold and scared."
— Eli Dror (@edrormba) January 1, 2024
Riverdale Police Chief Casey Warren revealed that Kai had been manipulated and controlled by cyber kidnappers who convinced him that his family in China was under threat.
The teen's parents reportedly paid $80,000 to bank accounts in China after receiving a ransom note and a photo of Kai suggesting he might have been kidnapped.
The cyber kidnappers taunted the family, leading to the payment. Kai was officially reported missing when his host family, unaware of his absence, contacted the police on Friday.
Investigations, involving the Riverdale Police Department, the FBI, and the US Embassy in China, revealed that Kai had left the house on his own.
Authorities discovered that Kai was likely self-isolating in the Brigham City canyon based on bank records, recent purchases, phone records, and an incident in Provo where he attempted to set up a campsite, causing concern for his well-being.
The FBI also informed local authorities about other recent cyber kidnapping cases targeting Chinese exchange students.
After being found, Kai was able to reassure his family in China that he was safe.
The Riverdale Police Department has not responded to requests for comments on the case. Kai was treated to a warm cheeseburger on his way to the police department after being located.
The high-profile situation remains under investigation while the student's family is happy to hear their son has been safely found.