The FBI is investigating an alleged kidnapping for ransom of a 26-year-old Florida private pilot who has been missing since April 1, an FBI spokesman told CNN Friday.
The bureau identified the man as Robert Arthur Wiles, of Lakeland, Florida, who runs his family’s aircraft maintenance business, National Flight Services, at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport.
Wiles’ parents first suspected something was wrong when they couldn’t reach their son, whom they had visited a few days before he was reported missing, said FBI Tampa, Florida, spokesman Dave Couvertier.
“They were sent a ransom note,” he said. “A threat was made. His parents were told to follow directions, but they heard nothing back.”
For now, the bureau won’t elaborate on exactly what the note said or how much money was demanded — only that the note was signed in a “unique” way, Couvertier said. It is not clear why Wiles would have been targeted, he said.
Agents believe that revealing specifics might compromise the investigation, he said.
Couvertier said that while the bureau has no evidence to indicate the kidnapping could have been staged, “we’re exploring every lead, every possibility.” But he added, “We’re treating this as the real thing.”
Investigators won’t explain why they waited so long to go public with the case except to say the parents hope that talking about it now might generate new leads in the case, he said.
“The parents are offering a reward. They hope someone will be able to help them and come forward with information,” he said.
At an FBI-organized news conference Friday afternoon in Tampa, the parents announced they are offering $10,000 to anyone who can provide them information.
“Our son knows how to reach us; he has our phone numbers,” they said. “The only thing that matters to us is that our son comes home safely.”
So far, the bureau has followed leads involving Robert Wiles’ “activities and associations” in several Florida cities as well in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, he said. One friend was contacted in Thailand.
Kidnappings for ransom in the United States are considered rare, especially of adults.
The agency says it investigated 161 kidnappings in the nation last year involving custody disputes, cults, drug rip-offs and sexual assaults.
National Flight Services has other locations in Florida, Texas, Ohio — where its headquarters are — and in Toronto, Canada. A company Web site lists the owner as Thomas Wiles
This was found @ CNN.com
The follow-up story can be read here