Man pleads guilty in RI Porsche kidnapping

AP News
Posted: Dec 02, 2011 4:20 PM
Man pleads guilty in RI Porsche kidnapping

A man living in Massachusetts pleaded guilty Friday to charges that he and a cohort kidnapped a college classmate from his luxury Providence apartment, stuffed him in a bag and drove him across state lines as part of a plot to steal his $80,000 Porsche to settle gambling debts.

Zhenpeng "Todd" Hu of Malden, Mass., a former hospitality student at Johnson and Wales University, faces up to life in prison on kidnapping and conspiracy charges when he is sentenced March 30 in U.S. District Court in Providence. Defense attorney Robert B. Mann declined to comment.

The defendants and victims all have roots in China. An arrest warrant has been issued for co-defendant Shengfeng "Alex" Cui, 27, who fled the country for China shortly after the kidnapping, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Gerard B. Sullivan.

The men plotted to steal the Porsche so they could resell it to pay off Cui's gambling debts, Sullivan said. He said the plot was mostly Cui's idea and was in the works for several weeks.

Prosecutors say the men used a key they borrowed from Xianglong Wu to break into the luxury apartment he shared with a woman early April 2. They brought a knife, stun gun, duct tape and plastic ties with them, prosecutors said.

An FBI affidavit says Wu's parents are believed to be wealthy owners of a clothing company in China. It says the men tried to conceal their identities from Wu and planned to release him after two days.

The men are accused of blindfolding, gagging and binding the hands and feet of Wu and the roommate after assaulting them. Prosecutors say the men then put the roommate inside a large suitcase and confined Wu to a large bag used to transport snowboards. The woman later freed herself and sought help from a neighbor.

Wu was driven in his 2011 Porsche Cayenne sport utility vehicle to an apartment complex, where he was put into a BMW and driven from Rhode Island to an apartment in Malden, Mass., prosecutors said.

Prosecutors allege the men locked Wu inside the apartment bathroom. They said that Wu tried to negotiate with Hu and Cui, but that the pair did not make any demands of him.

Wu freed himself from the bathroom after two hours while Hu and Cui were away and sought help from the apartment manager, prosecutors said. Police arrested Hu on the roof of the building, where investigators found he had crudely slit his wrists using the top of a paint can, Sullivan said. Hu left a suicide note for his girlfriend, he said.

The Porsche was later recovered in Cranston, R.I., and the BMW was found in East Providence.