Former Students Get 4 Years in Kidnapping
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Two former University of Virginia students were sentenced yesterday to four years in prison for kidnapping a fellow Chinese national in Tysons Corner and demanding $500,000 for his release.
Baichuan Shu and Guanyu Lu, both 20, were second-year engineering students with proud pasts and bright futures. Shu had been one of the top students in Shanghai and was a prestigious Rodman fellow at Virginia, his mother testified. Lu was the first student from his town to go directly from high school to a university abroad, his father said.
But in Charlottesville, they grew bored, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Gregory O. Holt said. "This has never been a crime of opportunity or passion," Holt told Chief Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Dennis J. Smith. "This was planned out."
The two students targeted Paul Wang, who was living in McLean and attending Northern Virginia Community College. Wang had met Shu and Lu on visits to Charlottesville.
On Nov. 20, after purchasing duct tape, a pellet gun and a cellphone, one of the defendants called Wang and told him that they didn't know each other but had attended the same high school in China, Holt said. The caller said that his car had broken down at Tysons Corner and that he needed Wang's help.
Wang drove to Tysons, where someone knocked him down from behind, covered his eyes and said in English: "Do not move. Be quiet or I'll kill you."
Wang was blindfolded, placed in a car and driven to the Stratford Motor Lodge in Falls Church. Then one of his captors called Wang's host family and said that if the family did not pay $500,000, the kidnappers would kill Wang.
Authorities moved quickly. More cellphone calls to Wang's host family enabled AT&T to locate the area where the calls were coming from, and police and the FBI set up surveillance on the Stratford.
Meanwhile, the kidnappers used Wang's credit card so often that Wang's family received a call from the company. Police went to Tysons Corner and obtained surveillance video of two young men buying clothes.
When Shu and Lu emerged from their room Nov. 21, a police detective and an FBI agent approached them and asked to look inside. Wang was lying in the bathtub with duct tape around his eyes. Shu and Lu were arrested.
Wang was not seriously hurt. He attended yesterday's sentencing but did not testify, and he declined to comment afterward.
Shu spoke first, after watching his mother testify tearfully. "I'd like to apologize for my actions," Shu said. "It was outrageous, immature, irresponsible. I never intended to hurt Paul. I thought if I didn't hurt him physically, I wouldn't hurt him at all. I was wrong, so wrong."
Smith told him: "You spread terror that night, to the victim and the victim's family. That terror reverberates even today and probably will for the rest of their lives." He sentenced Shu to 20 years, the minimum for abduction with intent to extort, and suspended 15 1/2 years, leaving 4 1/2 years.
Lu also apologized to Wang and his family. "I wish them to recover as soon as possible," Lu said. "At no time did I have any intention to harm them in any way."
Smith sentenced Lu to 20 years and suspended 16 years, leaving four years. The judge did not say why he gave six months more to Shu. Both men pleaded guilty in April.