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Toronto police find one of three missing Chinese students believed targeted in ransom scam

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Mark Blinch/The Globe and Mail

Toronto police are still looking for two Chinese teenagers that they believe have been caught up in a ransom scam after a third student was located on the weekend.

Constable Allyson Douglas-Cook said suspects in the case had ordered Juan Wen Zhang, 20, to go into hiding, turn off her cellphone, and cut off communication with her family and friends. She was warned her relatives in China would be hurt if she didn't obey.

Ms. Zhang, who was reported missing by her boyfriend and roommate on Wednesday, was ordered to go to a spot outside Toronto, the exact location of which police are not disclosing due to their investigation. She followed the instructions and waited.

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In the meantime, Const. Douglas-Cook said the suspects contacted her relatives in China, told them the young woman was being held in a secret location, and demanded money for her return. But police had already been in contact with her relatives, and no money was exchanged.

After no one turned up at the hiding spot, Ms. Zhang eventually turned on her phone and was flooded with messages. Once she realized her family was not in danger and the threats were a scam, she returned to Toronto and called police on Saturday afternoon.

Police remain concerned for the safety of the other two missing students, who are also from China and studying in Canada.

Sixteen-year-old Ke "Jaden" Xu, who is 6-foot-1 and thin, with short black hair and brown eyes, was last seen on Thursday. Yue "Kandy" Liu, 17, went missing on Friday morning. She is 5-foot-6 and thin, and has long black hair and brown eyes.

The RCMP and China's Canadian embassy have been warning about this scam and others targeting Chinese nationals living in Canada.

In July, the RCMP in British Columbia issued a warning that six people in Canada had received calls saying that their relatives in China would be kidnapped if they didn't co-operate. At the same time, the suspects also contacted relatives in China, telling them their family member in Canada was being held against their will. Ransom money was demanded.

There have been more cases since. The main targets have been female Chinese nationals, especially students.

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