LOS ANGELES — Two men were charged Wednesday with kidnapping a Chinese national from a Los Angeles-area shopping mall in a $2 million ransom scheme that went wrong when the victim died from his injuries, authorities said.
Anthony Valladares, 28, of Pasadena and Alexis Ivan Romero Velez, 24, of Azusa were arrested Tuesday and could face life in prison if convicted, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office.
It wasn’t immediately known whether they had attorneys.
Federal prosecutors contend that Valladres was hired as “muscle” and Velez to be the driver of a minivan in the July 16, 2018, kidnapping of Ruochen “Tony” Liao from a mall parking lot in suburban San Gabriel.
Valladares told investigators that he was to be paid $1,000 for his role in the kidnapping and said he hired Romero as the driver, according to an FBI affidavit.
Liao owned a Southern California car dealership that sold high-end cars such as Porches and Bentleys.
Liao’s parents in China were sent ransom demands and ordered to deposit payment in Chinese bank accounts, according to court documents.
However, the money wasn’t paid, authorities said.
Liao was badly beaten and repeatedly shocked with a stun gun during the snatching. He was believed to have been held in a closet at a home in Corona and died the day after the kidnapping and was buried in the Mojave Desert authorities said.
His remains were identified last year.
Two Chinese citizens who had been living in West Covina have been charged with orchestrating the crime. Guangyao Yang, 26, and Peicheng Shen, 34, are being held in China on charges filed there related to the kidnapping, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
It was believed that the men arranged the kidnapping to collect a debt from Liao, according to court documents.