Ruochen Liao

Liao, circa 2018; The front of Liao's shirt; Sketch of suspect "David"; Peicheng Shen; Guangyao Yang

  • Missing Since 07/16/2018
  • Missing From San Gabriel, California
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Date of Birth 03/16/1990 (29)
  • Age 28 years old
  • Height and Weight 5'6, 130 pounds
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description A dark-colored t-shirt with two camouflage-print horizontal stripes above a camouflage-print star on the front. A photo of the front of the shirt is posted with this case summary.
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Asian male. Black hair, black eyes. Liao may reverse the order of his names, as in "Liao Ruochen." His nickname is Tony. He was born in China.

Details of Disappearance

Liao was last seen in San Gabriel Square, a shopping center in the 100 block of west Valley Boulevard in San Gabriel, California on July 16, 2018. He was abducted by three men in two black vehicles at 7:30 p.m. and got into a black minivan, probably a Toyota Sienna. The other vehicle was a black SUV, probably a Range Rover.

At the time of his disappearance, Liao worked for a luxury car consignment business in Costa Mesa, California. His kidnapping may have been linked to a business deal gone wrong, as police stated Liao worked with people who "may not have been the most reputable."

Liao had met several times with a debt collector called "David", who offered to help him collect a debt in exchange for a fee of twenty to thirty thousand dollars. Two days before his disappearance, Liao took a friend along for his second meeting with David, because he didn't trust David.

Liao was instructed to go to the third meeting alone. He brought his friend again and had his friend watch from a distance. The friend saw Liao getting into a dark-colored minivan, which drove out of the parking lot. Liao's friend never saw or heard from him again and reported him missing the next day.

The day after Liao's disappearance, the same day he was reported missing, his father in China got photos of him from his WeChat messaging app profile, showing him with his arms and legs bound and his eyes taped shut. Five minutes later, Liao's father's phone rang and when he answered, he heard his son say in Mandarin, "Father, save me, help me, I have been kidnapped."

Liao's father then got a message instructing him to deposit $2 million into three Chinese bank accounts within three hours in exchange for Liao's safe return. A man said on the phone, "Your son has made me very poor. I have lost everything and suffered a divorce because of him." Liao's parents did not pay the ransom and the callers did not make any further contact.

A composite sketch of David is posted with this case summary. He is described as a Chinese man, 35 to 40 years old, who spoke Mandarin Chinese. Authorities believe he was actually Peicheng Shen. In March 2019, Shen and another suspect, Guangyao Yang, were charged with kidnapping, conspiracy to kidnap, attempted extortion and threat by foreign communication.

Investigators think Shen and Yang abducted Liao, took him to a house in Corona, California and held him in a bedroom closet. They think he died at some point during the kidnapping. Investigators believe Liao died during in the kidnapping and Shen and Yang drove to Mojave, California on July 18 to bury or otherwise dispose of the body and possibly other evidence in the desert. That same day, Shen had the closet of the Corona house re-carpeted. Yang searched online with his phone for how long it would take a body to decompose in soil.

Both men lived in West Covina, California at the time of Liao's disappearance. Yang left the U.S. for China on July 26, ten days after Liao's abduction. Three days later he was arrested by Chinese authorities on suspicion of kidnapping Liao. Shen's current whereabouts are unknown but he is also believed to be in China.

Liao was born in Sichuan, China. He attended school in Nebraska, then moved to the Los Angeles, California area. Foul play is suspected in his case due to the circumstances involved.

Investigating Agency

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation 310-477-6565

Updated 1 time since October 12, 2004. Last updated August 10, 2019; casefile added.