PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) – A man living in Massachusetts was sentenced Friday to a year in prison for kidnapping a college classmate from his luxury Providence apartment, stuffing him in a bag and driving him across state lines as part of a plot to steal his $80,000 Porsche to settle gambling debts.
Zhenpeng “Todd” Hu, 25, of Malden, Mass., had faced up to life in prison for the April 2 kidnapping of Xianglong “Alson” Wu. But a judge granted him leniency because he showed remorse, helped authorities investigate the crime, faces deportation to his native China and already has spent a year in a “highly intense” prison setting.
Hu will get credit for the year he has spent behind bars, but will remain in custody until deportation proceedings are completed. An arrest warrant has been issued for a co-defendant, who authorities say fled the country shortly after the kidnapping.
“You’ve already begun punishing yourself and you will be living with this for the rest of your life,” U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mary M. Lisi told Hu.
She called the crime “heinous” and said the recommendation from federal prosecutors that Hu serve nine years in prison would make sense in most cases. But Hu will never be allowed to return to the United States after he is deported, Lisi noted.
“Who will he be when he gets out?” Lisi asked. “I don’t think a lengthy sentence of incarceration would do anything to make Mr. Hu a better person.”
Hu, a former hospitality student at Johnson and Wales University, said he dishonored himself, his family and the principles his parents taught him. His elderly parents live in China. His father suffers from prostate cancer and his mother is being treated for hypertension, said defense attorney Robert B. Mann.
Hu apologized to Wu and his roommate for what happened.
“I want to tell them how deeply sorry I am. I’m very sorry,” Hu said. “I also want to apologize to their families for the suffering I’ve caused them.”
Three of Hu’s family members attended the sentencing but left without commenting. Mann declined to comment following the hearing.
In court, Mann described Hu as having a “totally misguided sense of loyalty” to a co-defendant, Shengfeng “Alex” Cui. Prosecutors said Cui fled the country for China shortly after the kidnapping.
The men plotted to steal the Porsche so they could resell it to pay off debts that Cui owed to a Chinese gambling syndicate, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Gerard B. Sullivan. He has said the plot was mostly Cui’s idea and was in the works for several weeks.
Prosecutors say the men used Wu’s key to get into the luxury apartment he shared with a woman during the early morning hours. 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 blindfolded, gagged and bound the hands and feet of Wu and the roommate after assaulting them, prosecutors have said. Hu held a knife to the woman’s face, Sullivan said. The men then put her inside a large suitcase and confined Wu to a large bag used to transport snowboards, he said. 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 to an apartment in Malden, Mass., prosecutors have said.
Sullivan said the men locked Wu inside the apartment bathroom. Wu tried to negotiate with Hu and Cui, but the pair did not make any demands of him, prosecutors have said.
Wu freed himself from the bathroom after two hours while Hu and Cui were away and sought help from the apartment manager, according to prosecutors.
Wu and his roommate now double bolt their door and barricade it with furniture, Sullivan said.
“They were put in fear of their life,” he said. Wu and his roommate told prosecutors they planned to attend Hu’s sentencing, but did not show up, Sullivan 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, prosecutors have said. Hu left a suicide note for his girlfriend.
The Porsche was later recovered in Cranston, R.I., and the BMW was found in East Providence.
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