Authorities are asking for the public’s help in locating a Chinese businessman kidnapped from a California shopping center Last month, according to a statement from the FBI.
Ruochen “Tony” Liao, 28, was abducted July 16 after meeting a man in San Gabriel known only as “David,” and was last seen being forced into a van against his will, investigators said.
Now, the FBI is offering $25,000 for information leading to information about Liao’s whereabouts, adding to a $150,000 reward from the missing man’s family.
In a press conference Monday held alongside a lawyer representing the family, Los Angeles-based FBI Special Agent Gene Kowel told reporters that authorities believe Liao is still alive — but every second counts in finding him.
“We’re operating under the premise that he is still alive, which is why this reward and this publicity is so crucial to the case,” Kowel said at the press conference. “However we do become concerned as these cases progress, because the chances of someone remaining alive can diminish.”
Liao, who graduated from the University of Nebraska in 2014 with a business degree, is a partner at an Orange County car dealership, according to NBC 4 Los Angeles.
Liao went to the San Gabriel Plaza shopping center around 7:30 p.m. July 16 to meet with “David,” whom a witness described as about six feet tall, between 35 and 40 years old, and speaking Mandarin, the FBI said.
Surveillance cameras showed him being forced into a black Range Rover, while the other two suspects drove off in a black Toyota Sienna, officials told Oxygen.com.
More than a month later, he has not been seen.
Investigators believe three men were involved in the kidnapping, but witnesses only got a glimpse of “David,” catching a good enough eye of him to provide the FBI with a sketch of the alleged kidnapper, officials said.
The kidnappers initially made contact with Liao’s family, demanding $2 million in ransom, but after the family balked at paying the fee, the abductors cut off contact, and the family has not heard from them or Liao since, according to NBC 4 Los Angeles.
Standing alongside federal investigators at Monday's press conference, Matthew Lombard, the family’s attorney, begged the public to help bring Liao home.
“He’s a deeply loved person by his family,” Lombard said. “He’s their only child, and they’re very, very concerned for him.”
It was not immediately clear how the kidnappers contacted the family, or when they cut off contact. Lombard did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Oxygen.com.
Liao’s relationship, if any, with the suspects was not immediately clear, but at Monday’s press conference Kowel told reporters that some of the people Liao was involved with “may not have been the most reputable.”
Liao, who hails from Sichuan, China, was described as standing about 5-feet-6-inches tall and weighing about 130 pounds.
Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Liao and his kidnappers is asked to contact the FBI’s LA field office at (310) 477-6565, or by emailing Tips@FBI.gov. For more information and photos of Liao, see the website set up by the family to help find him.