Who is Louis Ziskin? US entrepreneur accused of kidnapping plot in Thailand was once featured in Forbes as successful CEO
This story has been updated to include quotes from DropIn. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Louis William Ziskin was a former US Marine
Two Americans, Louis William Ziskin and Jeremy Hughes Manchester, were arrested over the weekend of May 15-16 for the alleged broad daylight kidnapping of a Thai businessman from a restaurant for ransom following a business conflict.
Ziskin, 51, along with Manchester, 41, and two others, were arrested in connection with an alleged $2.95million revenge ransom plot abduction from a Bangkok restaurant.
Who is Louis William Ziskin?
Ziskin found himself in the limelight after Forbes profiled him as the CEO and founder of DropIn, an on-demand streaming platform that enabled users to access a network of smartphones and drones. He became a multi-millionaire just seven years after being released from prison for drug smuggling — reportedly the largest ecstasy bust in history at the time.
On his website, Ziskin described his arrest and prison stint from 2000 and 2012 as a period of "self-reflection." Ziskin had started importing ecstasy from Europe in 1998. He was arrested two years later.
According to the Daily Mail, Ziskin had established himself as a major importer of ecstasy in the Los Angeles area. He initially flew to Europe multiple times — carrying large amounts of cash, purchasing ecstasy, and flying back to the US with the contraband.
The United States Customs Service (USCS) intercepted three ecstasy-filled packages from France in late December 1999. They were bound for various commercial mailboxes in the Los Angeles area.
USCS authorities subsequently arrested the couriers, who then became informants and co-operated with an investigation. On December 22, 1999, seven hundred pounds of ecstasy and more than $1 million in cash were recovered from two storage units.
Authorities tracked Ziskin's movements for a year, a time during which he continued to conduct his own smuggling operation via Federal Express shipments, unaware that he was being watched. According to the newspaper, he sent cocaine to England and then withdrew his earnings from an English bank to purchase ecstasy. He was finally apprehended in December 2000 and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Following an appeal in 2003, the sentence was reduced and he was released from custody in 2011. He successfully ended parole in 2012 and appeared to have been turning his life around. Soon, he became a Hollywood-based entrepreneur and a poster child of how prison could reform someone. He would frequently give lectures on anti-recidivism and addiction recovery, and regularly donated to organizations that contribute to addiction education.
Ziskin was eventually featured in an article on the prestigious Forbes website in 2018. The magazine wrote about his video stream service DropIn and how he had turned his life around.
Ziskin, born and raised in Los Angeles by divorced parents, described himself to Forbes as a "problem child." "I was a mentally gifted minor who thought rules did not apply to me," he told the magazine in 2018. After moving from school to school, Ziskin eventually attended the University of Southern California but dropped out before completing his degree.
Why was the alleged kidnapping for?
According to Bangkok Post, Ziskin, in late 2020, allegedly appointed the Collection Company Ltd. to negotiate the purchase of a large quantity of the gloves with the Paddy The Room Trading Co. for almost $3 million.
However, Ziskin lost the money in an ensuing business conflict between the two sides. So he allgedly hired Michael Greenberg, an Israeli who opened a private detective company in Thailand last year, to help him to retrieve the money, according to the outlet.
Greenberg and his Thai and foreign collaborators then allegedly planned to abduct Wen Yu Chung, 60, a Taiwanese representative of the Collection Company in Thailand. They allegedly contacted Chung under the pretext of wanting to buy rubber gloves from the Paddy The Room Trading Company, the police said.
They made an appointment to meet at L’Oliva, a restaurant in Bangkok's Sukhumvit Soi 36, on March 28. As Chung was waiting, Greenberg and his friends allegedly cuffed and dragged him from the restaurant to a room at NT Place, which was about 200 metres away from L’Oliva. There were several other people already in the room.
The alleged abductors then assaulted Chung and used his telephone to call his boss — identified as Emily — and demand $2 million from her. They also allegedly called his relatives, demanding another $1 million in return for Chung's safe release.
When their ransom demands were turned down, the suspects allegedly took Chung to the Nadimos restaurant to talk to Ziskin before he was finally released.
Chung later filed a complaint against those who conspired to hold him for ransom. Police arrested Ziskin, Manchester, and a Thai man named Ekbodin Prasitnarit. All three denied the charges.
Ziskin was released by a Thai criminal court judge on less than $10,000 bail at his first court appearance. The arraignment hearing is scheduled for July 5, 2021.
DropIn slams allegations, stands firmly behind Ziskin
Meanwhile, DropIn, in a media release, said the company's Board of Directors is conducting an investigation concerning the events surrounding the arrest of its founder Ziskin.
Ziskin has been relieved from his role as CEO pending investigation so that he may dedicate his full attention to the matters in Thailand, the press release said.
DropIn also slammed the international and domestic media for presenting "patently false, misleading, and incorrect" information.
"Mr. Ziskin was NOT at, in, or near the restaurant where the alleged kidnapping took place. Neither was he in any CCTV footage in any area that the alleged crime took place. In fact, the only CCTV footage of Mr. Ziskin was illegally leaked footage of his arrest, which a Newsflare user edited to create the impression that Mr. Ziskin was, in fact, at the scene of the alleged crime," the press release said, adding the Board "unanimously and vigorously" supports Ziskin.
The release said Ziskin went to Thailand to file a criminal fraud complaint with the Economic Crimes Division of the Royal Thai Police.
"The report was based on fraud not, a bad business deal, as news and media outlets incorrectly reported. Sri Trang, a publicly-traded Thai company, has made clear through its legal counsel that all documents, orders certificates, delivery schedules, corporate correspondence sent to DropIn Inc by Emily Hsu the CEO of Collections Enterprise, the accuser Yu-Ching Wen, Ted Van, and David Lin that represented themselves as the EXCLUSIVE representative for Paddy the Room Trading Co LTD are fake and fraudulent. Sri Trang states that it never had any business dealing with Collections Enterprise or Paddy the Room Trading and was a damaged party previously and reported both companies to the Royal Thai Police, Crime Suppression Division, and Consumer Protection Police Division," the company's release said.
The Board of Directors continues to investigate and will share more details once they been independently verified, the statement said.