A Hong Kong millionaire masterminded the kidnapping last year of Salt Lake businessman Carl Martin in a bid to recover $3.5 million the man invested with Martin in the 1980s, according to a federal indictment.
John Wong, 56, has been indicted on a federal conspiracy charge. The conspiracy charge has also been added to the kidnapping charges filed last year against six men, including Wong's nephew.The new indictment spells out for the first time the events leading to the Dec. 21 kidnapping of Martin from his Holladay business. Martin escaped from a Las Vegas hotel that night while his kidnappers were away.
Wong is not guilty of the charge, said Paul Rao, Wong's attorney. Rao described his client as a "very gentle, moral man" who hired some of the accused kidnappers to talk to Martin about money Martin owed him.
"You ask people to tell this gentleman that you know he is hiding assets and you want to recover some, then these people you hire do a frolic of their own. They do their own thing," said the New York attorney. "How do you have control? The circumstances look like Mr. Wong did this or that, but actually he is innocent."
But the indictment says Wong and his nephew, Sean Chase, hired a private investigator to research Martin for a year before the kidnaping; Wong wired money to the kidnappers the day before and the day of the kidnapping; Wong made several calls to the kidnappers' Salt Lake hotel room and Wong gave his nephew $100,000 before the kidnapping to pay for Chase's attorney if Chase was caught.
The tale really began in the 1980s when Martin and partner Richard D. Brown set up a stock company called Goldcor. The men said they were selling interest in a gold mining operation in Costa Rica. But the operation didn't exist.
Investors lost as much as $40 million in the scheme and Martin went to prison. Wong invested $3.5 million in the company, Rao said.
In 1989, Wong sued Martin and Brown in a bid to get the money back. The lawsuit was dismissed in 1992 after Wong's attorney withdrew as counsel.
A few months later, Wong and his nephew met with a private investigator in Scottsdale, Ariz., the indictment says. Chase works for MCI in Phoenix.
Wong hired the private investigator to compile information on Martin, telling him that the information would be used in preparing a lawsuit against Wong.
The private investigator, Gerald Jacques, researched Martin for a year, turning the information over to Chase two days before the kidnapping.
Jacques came to Salt Lake City three times to research Martin. He flew in for the last time Dec. 16.
Five of the accused kidnappers began flying into Salt Lake City on Dec. 19. The sixth, Paul Siewiec, lives here. The five checked into the Radisson Hotel, then met to discuss the kidnapping.
One defendant told Siewiec that his boss, "a guy in Hong Kong involved in textiles was ripped off for $3.5 million by this guy." The kidnappers needed to get Martin to transfer $3.5 million from the United States to a Swiss bank account.
Wong has made millions of dollars from his textile business in Hong Kong. He is also a Canadian citizen and often lives in the United States, according to court records.
For two days before the kidnapping, Chase and Wong made several calls to each other's hotel rooms. Wong was staying at the Lafayette Park Hotel in California.
The day before the kidnapping, Siwiec bought a Dodge Diplomat from a local resident for $450. A few hours later, he and defendant Joseph Lawrence Kleiman bought a 1977 Jeep Wagoneer from another resident. They bought a stun gun from the Spy Factory, for $149.
The men then picked up a $1,500 Western Union money order at Check Mart, 370 S. State, sent from Wong's Walnut Creek, Calif., home, the complaint says.
The night before the kidnapping, the five men drove to Martin's office and reviewed the plans.
Three of the men kidnapped Martin at 7:30 the next morning. The other two waited in a nearby Kmart parking lot.
The five drove to Las Vegas with Martin, forced him to sign the wire transfer and photographed him several times.
That afternoon, the men went to a Smith's Food King in Las Vegas and faxed a copy of the wire transfer authorization to a fax machine at MCI, where Chase worked.
A phone call was the made from a pay phone in the lobby of the MCI building to the home of Martin's son, Greg, demanding ransom. The caller said, "We're sending you a fax. If there is no money in the account, then we are going to kill Carl."
Meanwhile, one of the alleged kidnappers picked up a $2,000 money order from Wong's home wired to a Las Vegas casino.
Martin escaped from a Las Vegas hotel room while the men were away. He had been handcuffed to the pipes under the bathroom sink. When the kidnappers left, Martin disassembled the plumbing, fled and flagged down a policeman.
Rod Snow, Wong's attorney in the 1989 lawsuit against Martin, was stunned by the indictment. "My impression of John Wong is that he is a pleasant, personable, gentle individual. There was never any indication of all, none whatsoever, that he wanted to do anything but try to pursue this through normal channels."
Because Wong is voluntarily appearing before Boyce, he will asked to be released on his own recognizance, Rao said.