Authorities: 1 of 3 fugitive inmates arrested in California

Published: Updated:
Orange County Sheriff’s Department / MGN

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) – Police captured one of three fugitive inmates on Friday after they escaped a week ago from a California jail while facing charges involving violent crimes.

Bac Duong, 43, was arrested by police in Santa Ana, the same city where the trio made their elaborate escape from the Orange County jail, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said.

Shortly after the late-morning arrest, a team of well-armed officers in protective vests searched a vehicle-filled commercial yard in Santa Ana.

Duong, Jonathan Tieu, 20, and Hossein Nayeri, 37, had all been awaiting trial for unrelated violent crimes. They were held in a dormitory with about 65 other men in Santa Ana, about 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

The men escaped early Jan. 22 after cutting a hole in a metal grate then crawling through plumbing tunnels and onto the roof of a five-story jail building.

They pushed aside barbed wire and rappelled down using a rope made of bed sheets.

It took jail staff 16 hours to realize the three men were missing because an assault on a guard delayed an evening head count.

The escape raised questions about security at the jail in suburban Orange County and resembled a similar breakout last summer at a state prison in upstate New York.

In that case, two inmates also cut through a wall that was hidden by a bunk bed and used the hole to access piping and tunnels that led outside.

In California, authorities say the trio cut through a quarter-inch-thick grill on a dormitory wall and got into plumbing tunnels before sawing through half-inch-thick steel bars. On the roof, they moved aside razor wire and rappelled to the ground using the bed linen.

They were last seen at a 5 a.m. check but were not determined to be missing until 16 hours later partially because an assault on a guard delayed an evening census.

Hutchens, who oversees the jail, has said she was extremely troubled by how long it took to discover the inmates were gone.

It was the first escape in nearly three decades from the California facility built in 1968. The jail holds 900 men and is located in Santa Ana, about 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

Authorities had offered $200,000 in rewards for information leading to their recapture.

Tieu had been held on a $1 million bond since October 2013 on charges of murder, attempted murder in the shooting of a man on his front porch. Nayeri had been held without bond since September 2014 on charges of kidnapping, torture, aggravated mayhem and burglary. Authorities alleged that he kidnapped a medical marijuana dealer because he believed the man had hidden a large sum of money.

The prosecutor in his case drew criticism from her boss when she compared Nayeri to fictional cannibal killer Hannibal Lecter after the escape.

Authorities say Duong has been held without bond since last month on charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and other charges in a gang shooting.

Immigration authorities and records indicate he had been ordered deported to Vietnam in 1998 but remained in the country and racked up a lengthy rap sheet.

Nayeri, the probable mastermind in the escape, had help from a woman whose English classes he was taking while locked up, authorities allege.

He came to know Nooshafarin Ravaghi, 44, during an English as a second language course inside the Orange County jail.

Investigators believe a close relationship developed between the two, who had exchanged handwritten letters of a “personal nature,” sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Jeff Hallock said.

“It wasn’t the relationship that you would expect between a teacher and an inmate in a custody setting,” he said, noting that jail employees go through training about rules and the risk of being manipulated by inmates.

Authorities say Duong stole a van the day after the escape after taking it for a test drive in the only reported sighting of the men since the breakout.

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