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$40K reward offered for missing scholar

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-06-21 09:22

New York - The family of a missing Chinese scholar announced that they are working with Champaign County Crime Stoppers to offer a reward of $40,000 for information leading to an arrest in the disappearance of Zhang Yingying, 26.

A visiting Chinese scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus, Zhang was last seen getting into a black Saturn Astra on June 9. She has been missing ever since.

On Monday, representatives from Crime Stoppers, the FBI and the university police department were present at a news conference held by UIUC and Zhang's family.

The new reward comes in addition to the FBI's offer of up to $10,000 for the location or whereabouts of Zhang.

"These are two different rewards that are not combined," an FBI official said. "We have broadcast the poster on the FBI Springfield webpage, on Facebook, Instagram, as well as Twitter. So, there are a lot of media sources."

Founded 30 years ago, Champaign County Crime Stoppers is a non-profit organization that allows people to anonymously provide information about criminal activity.

"It is the largest reward Crime Stoppers has ever offered," John Hecker, a local representative of Crime Stoppers, said.

"Crime Stoppers is serving as a facilitator for this. The money was not raised by Crime Stoppers, and is not coming from Crime Stoppers' fund," Hecker said. "This is kind of through the family via a GoFundMe account."

Since the family has arrived in the US, GoFundMe, a platform to raise money for Zhang, has already collected more than $6,000.

"We plan to use most of the money as a fund to search for Zhang. Anyone with clues can call, and the reward is totally anonymous," Hecker said.

Anyone with information can contact Crime Stoppers on one of its three available platforms: by calling 217-373-TIPS (8477), online at http://373tips.com or by using the P3 Tips mobile app.

Providing information to Crime Stoppers is totally anonymous, which is different from the FBI.

"Calls and messages to Crime Stoppers are routed to a third-party call center, which strips all identifying information from the call before forwarding the information to police," the university police's website said. Hecker mentioned that callers are assigned a unique identifying number instead of using their names. Tips are then sent to FBI.

Crime Stoppers determine the amount of the reward based on the value of each bit of information provided. If there is only one who provides useful information, he or she gets the full reward. The reward is made available after Zhang is found.

"This case is very unique because we are going to make the determination in conjunction with the family," Hecker said. "We will be working closely with the family."

"I hope this $40,000 can lead to more information," a representative of UIUC Chinese Students and Scholars Association said.

The school and local Chinese people are offering help to Zhang's family.

"The university has provided an apartment for the family to stay in, and the Chinese Students and Scholars Association has put together a plan to provide some home-cooked meals for the family," Robin Kaler, associate chancellor of UIUC said.

Investigators from the university's Police Department, Illinois State Police and FBI continue to work around the clock, taking advantage of various technological resources.

"Detectives are following up on hundreds of tips already received," the university police's website said.

Xiao Jiaqiao in New York contributed to this story.

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