County sheriff

OC Jail Escapees Allegedly Took Taxi Driver Hostage, Shopped at Target While on the Run

Three men who escaped a Southern California jail more than a week ago allegedly held a taxi driver hostage, had haircuts and went shopping at a Target while on the run, officials said on Monday.

Orange County officials offered a detailed timeline in the escape of inmates Bac Duong, 43, Jonathan Tieu, 20, and Hossein Nayeri, 37, revealing a man was arrested for allegedly smuggling tools into the jail to help them escape.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said Loc Ba Nguyen, 50, faces charges for multiple crimes, including smuggling items into a correction facility and aiding in a prisoner's escape. Nguyen, who was not an employee or inmate at the jail, was tied to Duong, and was one of more than 60 search and arrest warrants served during the wide-ranging investigation, Rackauckas said. It wasn't immediately clear if Nguyen had an attorney.

All three escaped inmates were back in custody by Saturday after a massive manhunt.

Duong, Tieu, and Nayeri escaped from the Orange County Central Men's Jail in Santa Ana on Jan. 22, in what officials called an elaborate effort believed to have been planned for about six months. The inmates allegedly cut through a steel grate, half-inch steel bars and plumbing tunnels before making their way to an unsecured part of the jail's roof and using makeshift ropes to rappel several floors to the ground. 

At a media briefing Monday, Cpt. Jeff Hallock said that someone picked up the trio from the jail or nearby before they hailed a taxi driver at gunpoint, taking him hostage for days.

While on the run the three men allegedly went shopping at a Target store in Rosemead and got haircuts in El Monte. They also answered a Craigslist ad for a white SUV, which they stole.

Hallock said the inmates spent a few nights at a motel in Southern California, then drove to San Jose, where they stayed for several nights. Duong and Nayeri had a physical fight in a motel room about whether or not to kill the taxi driver and bury his body, Hallock said. Shortly after, Duong and the taxi driver left San Jose and returned to Santa Ana where he turned himself in. The taxi driver was not injured and was helping investigators, Hallock said.

Prosecutors also mentioned there was insufficient evidence to charge ESL jail teacher Nooshafarin Ravaghi, who was arrested last week for allegedly assisting in the escape.

Investigators found Nayeri and Ravaghi had more than a teacher-student relationship, but did not confirm it was a romantic affair, Rackauckas said. He also mentioned letters that were found between the two appeared to have been written by Nayeri, not Ravaghi.

Ravaghi was set to be released Monday and expected to remain in Orange County.

Duong was taken into custody on Friday after he walked up to a civilian in Santa Ana and said he wanted to turn himself in. The San Francisco Police Department arrested Tieu and Nayeri on Saturday after receiving a tip from an observant witness, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said. The witness will be eligible for a $200,000 reward, Hallock said.

Nayeri had been in custody since September 2014, Tieu since October 2013 and Duong since December.

The inmates are currently being held in isolation cells and will be arraigned on March 4.

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