LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — An Azusa man was arraigned on Friday for allegedly being involved in the 2018 kidnapping and death of a luxury car dealer.
24-year-old Alexis Ivan Romero Velez pleaded not guilty on the federal charge and is accused of driving a minivan vehicle in the scheme to abduct 28-year-old Ruochen “Tony” Liao.
The incident, allegedly orchestrated by Chinese nationals 26-year-old Guangyao Yang and 34-yeear-old Peicheng Shen, happened on July 16, 2018.
Suspect Anthony Valladares was allegedly used as the “muscle” in the scheme that involved Liao being kidnapped from the San Gabriel Square shopping plaza, held for $2 million ransom, beaten, killed and buried in the Mojave desert.
After Liao was abducted, his parents in China received ransom demands implying he had been badly beaten, blindfolded and tied up.
They were told to deposit a $2 million into Chinese bank accounts within three hours but did not pay the ransom, according to court documents.
Investigators say at the time, Liao was inside a closet at a Corona home and shocked with a Taser until the battery ran out.
He later died from his injuries and prosecutors allege that Yang and Shen drove to the desert near Mojave to bury his body.
Liao’s remains were eventually discovered in July 2019 through assistance from the FBI.
Velez and Valladares — the latter which will be arraigned on September 30 — are each charged with one federal count of kidnapping and could face up to life in prison.
Yang and Shen, who both lived in West Covina, are charged with conspiracy to kidnap, kidnapping, attempted extortion in violation of the Hobbs Act, and threat by foreign communication.
They are currently in custody in China on charges related to the kidnapping, prosecutors said.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)