Four suspects were arrested on charges of aggravated kidnapping for extortion and aggravated homicide in the death of 50-year-old Tou Ger Xiong
Four suspects, including a teenage boy, have been arrested and charged with aggravated kidnapping for extortion and aggravated homicide in the death of 50-year-old Tou Ger Xiong
Xiong, a well-known activist in the Twin Cities, Minn., Hmong American community, was found dead in Medellín on Dec. 11, just one day after he had gone on a date with a woman he met on social media
Local prosecutors believe Xiong was lured by the suspects using a dating app and held for ransom
Four suspects have been charged in connection with the disappearance and death of a Minnesota comedian and activist who went missing while visiting Colombia last month.
Last week, two men and one woman were arrested on charges of aggravated kidnapping for extortion and aggravated homicide in the death of Tou Ger Xiong, 50, whose body was found on Dec. 11, prosecutors told the Associated Press, Fox 9 and Colombian newspaper El Colombiano.
The suspects have reportedly denied the charges. A teenage boy was also charged in the case and sent to a detention center for minors.
Xiong, a well-known activist in the Twin Cities Hmong American community, was kidnapped on Dec. 10 in Medellín after going on a date with a woman he met on social media, El Colombiano reported, citing local authorities.
According to El Colombiano, officials said Xiong’s body was found the next day in a ravine with stab wounds and blunt force trauma. The paper also reported that he had been in the South American country since Nov. 29.
Prosecutors believe Xiong was lured by the suspects using a dating app and held for ransom in an apartment in the Robledo area, the AP reported. He was reportedly tied up, tortured, beaten and stripped of his credit cards and other personal belongings.
That day, Eh Xiong, Tou Ger’s brother, told several outlets, including KARE 11, that he got a call from his brother asking for $2,000, which the alleged kidnappers wanted as ransom. Eh told KSTP that he didn’t know if his brother ever got the money.
Meanwhile, prosecutors claim Xiong’s American friend who was allegedly contacted by the suspects ended up sending around $3,000 to a woman’s account, per the AP. Despite the payment having been received, Xiong was then beaten and then thrown off a cliff, prosecutors allege.
A forensic report cited by the local prosecutor’s office states Xiong died from injuries inflicted by a blunt object, according to El Colombiano.
“It is with immense sadness that we share the heartbreaking news of the discovery of the body of our beloved family member, Tou Ger Xiong, who had been the victim of a kidnapping and murder,” his family said in a statement released last month. “This has been an incredibly challenging time for our family and we appreciate the support and understanding of our community during this difficult period.”
Sahan Journal reported that Xiong was born in Laos and lived in a refugee camp in Thailand before moving with his family to St. Paul as a child.
“Tou Ger was a tireless advocate for those without a voice, a powerful storyteller for the Hmong American community, and a champion for building understanding between people of different cultures and backgrounds,” the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans said in a December statement. “We cannot fully express our shock and profound sadness at the news that he is now gone.”
Xiong’s family has set up an endowment fund in his name.
Now, the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá is warning U.S. citizens about an increase in reports of incidents involving the use of online dating apps to "lure victims, typically foreigners, for robbery by force or using sedatives to drug and rob individuals."
"U.S. Embassy Bogota is aware of eight suspicious deaths of private U.S. citizens in Medellín between November 1 and December 31, 2023," a Jan. 10 press release states. "The deaths appear to involve either involuntary drugging overdose or are suspected homicides. At this time, it is not believed these deaths are linked as each involved distinct circumstances, however several of the deaths point to possible drugging, robbery, and overdose, and several involve the use of online dating applications."
The U.S. Embassy said criminals are using dating apps to "lure victims" to meet in public places such as "hotels, restaurants, and bars, and then later assault and rob them."
"U.S. citizens should be vigilant, maintain heightened situational awareness, and incorporate strong personal security practices into their activities," the release stated.
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