Toronto Police Thwart Bitcoin Ransom Kidnapping During COVID-19 Pandemic

In January 2020, a kidnapping scheme unfolded in Toronto with the intention of extorting 500 bitcoins, which were valued at approximately $5.5 million at that time.

Toronto Police Thwart Bitcoin Ransom Kidnapping During Covid 19 Pandemic_65d5cb851d468.webp

Toronto Authorities Foil Bitcoin Ransom Kidnapping Amidst COVID-19 Crisis

In January 2020, a kidnapping plot in Toronto aimed to extort 500 bitcoins, valued at around $5.5 million at the time. The victim, Wenbo Jin, a 24-year-old University of Toronto statistics student, was held captive for 13 days. His father, Yumin Jin, was in China when he received a horrifying call from his son, who was being held hostage in Canada.

The kidnappers demanded a substantial ransom of 500 bitcoins, emphasizing the need for a quick resolution to ensure Wenbo’s safety, cautioning against police involvement.

However, their extortion plan ultimately unraveled. Yumin Jin stalled, explaining to the captors that he was unable to access the cryptocurrency due to a new virus wreaking havoc in China. Although only partially true, this story bought Toronto police the time they needed to locate and rescue Wenbo Jin from the Richmond Hill residence where he was held captive.

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After two days of deliberation, a jury convicted Zeyu Zang of kidnapping and administering a stupefying drug, with Crown attorney Erin Pancer noting that Mr. Zang had orchestrated the kidnapping and was in charge of the operation. The jury also convicted Jermaine Watson, who had assisted Zang in organizing the abduction, but acquitted Martin Levy, who was arrested at the scene.

The trial, spanning five weeks, featured a wealth of evidence, including DNA and fingerprint matches, surveillance footage, translated text message conversations, and critical testimony from kidnapper Ian Chan, a star witness for the prosecution.

The plot was set in motion on January 9, 2020, when Zang messaged Chan, his former roommate, expressing his desire to kidnap someone. Zang had a specific target in mind—Jin’s father, who co-owned a small coal mine in China, making the family a potential target for ransom.

The kidnappers attempted to abduct Jin but initially failed. However, on January 21, two members of the first “team” entered Jin’s residence using a copied fob and key secured by Zang. The kidnappers wore masks, brandished replica firearms, and forcibly sedated Jin, who was bound and blindfolded in his own bed.

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Jin, recalling his ordeal while testifying via Zoom from China, described the anxiety he felt when he was suddenly awakened by masked men in his condo, who ultimately placed him in a hockey bag and transported him to Richmond Hill.

Jin was confined to a bedroom, with barred windows, a camera monitoring the door, and his ankles and wrists shackled. He was only allowed to use the washroom after his captors became repulsed by the original bucket they provided. He wasn’t allowed to shower and experienced a limited change of clothes over the 13 days of captivity. His captors occasionally fed him fast food and even permitted him to listen to audiobooks.

Following Zang’s instructions, Chan made the ransom call to Yumin Jin on January 22, while cautioning against involving the authorities. However, Yumin Jin defied the warning, contacted the Chinese police, and flew to Toronto. Toronto police had already initiated an extensive investigation involving multiple units, including cybercrime, organized crime, and the Emergency Task Force.

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While investigators gathered surveillance footage, executed production orders and obtained warrants for various locations and electronic devices, Yumin Jin communicated with the kidnappers, citing the seriousness of the early COVID-19 pandemic in China and claiming that banking operations were hindered due to the virus.

Acknowledging the severity of the pandemic, the kidnappers agreed to postpone the ransom until the end of the month. On January 27, Toronto police issued a missing person report for Wenbo Jin, though they did not mention the kidnapping.

Police discovered Jin on February 2, and he realized the police had come to rescue him. After the arrest of Levy and Myers, it was revealed that Levy was not involved in guarding a hostage but was at the residence for drug-related purposes.

In today’s currency, 500 bitcoins are worth approximately $20 million. Sentencing hearings will occur at a later date.

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