A woman who taught English classes at Orange County's Central Men's Jail was arrested Thursday for allegedly helping three inmates escape from the lockup last week, a jailbreak that prompted a massive manhunt throughout Southern California.
Ravaghi Nooshafarin has been teaching English-as-a-second-language classes at the jail since July 2015, according to Orange County Sheriff's Department Lt. Jeff Hallock. She came to the United States after studying in Tehran and Paris. She earned her master's degree in education from Cal State Fullerton, college officials said.
One of the escaped inmates, Hossein Nayeri, 37, of Newport Beach, took her class and developed a relationship with Ravaghi, according to Hallock. Working for the Rancho Santigo Community College district led Noosha, as she is called, to teach English as a second-language class at the Santa Ana Jail. Nayeri took her class.
The exact nature of her alleged assistance was still being investigated, but she is believed to have provided information such as Google maps to Nayeri, the alleged mastermind of the Jan. 22 escape.
Hallock said Ravaghi, a 44-year-old Lake Forest resident who works for the Rancho Santiago Community College District, denied providing Nayeri with any tools used in the escape. It's not immediately clear if she has an attorney.
Hallock said investigators also believe the escaped inmates stole a white GMC Savana utility van from a "private party" on Saturday in the South Los Angeles area, and the inmates may be living out of it.
The van has paper license plates from Felix Chevrolet, with the plate number 8U66466, although the plates may have been removed and replaced, authorities said.
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Hallock said around 10 people have been arrested in connection with the escape so far, and several other arrests for unrelated warrants or probation issues have also been made during the manhunt.
The news comes as a rooftop view from the Orange County Jail shows the dramatic six-story drop to the ground that the three inmates took during their escape last week, leading to a manhunt that entered its sixth day Thursday. The inmates somehow made their way to the roof, cut through razor wire surrounding its edge, then rappelled down to the ground, authorities said. The fugitives had a 16-hour head-start Friday when they fled the high-security lockup in Santa Ana.
In addition to Nayeri, the other two escapees were identified as Jonathan Tieu, 20, and Bac Duong, 43. They were awaiting trials for unrelated violent crimes when they vanished from a dormitory they shared with about 65 other men at the jail. Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens called the escape "every sheriff's nightmare during a news conference Wednesday when she announced five arrests were made in connection with the investigation.
She declined to provide details about the arrests, but said more are possible in the next few days.
Around 30 warrants have been served since the escape was discovered. Those warrants were served and homes and used to search for electronic devices, such as computers and phones.
The men are believed to have escaped shortly after a 5 a.m. physical body count, one of two that take place each day at the jail. The disappearance wasn't discovered until about 9 p.m., during the second daily head count, which was to have started at 8 p.m. but was delayed by an altercation possibly staged to help delay discovery of the escape, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Department.
Authorities were continuing to investigate whether other inmates had a hand in the escape, notably through the altercation that delayed the 8 p.m. body count.
The men cut through a steel grate, half-inch steel bars and plumbing tunnels early Friday before making their way to an unsecured part of the jail's roof and using makeshift ropes to rappel several floors to the ground.
Nayeri, of Newport Beach, was in custody on kidnapping and torture charges for the abduction of a marijuana clinic owner who Nayeri allegedly drove to the desert and burned with a blowtorch. The victim, his attackers thought he had stashed money in the desert, was also sexually mutilated, prosecutors said.
Nayeri fled the United States to Iran. Authorities do not have extradition agreements with Iran, where Nayeri has family, so investigators used a ruse to get him to the Czech Republic, which is more cooperative with the U.S. for extraditing fugitives, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy. Nayeri was arrested in Prague while changing flights from Iran to Spain to visit family, Murphy said.
Tieu, of Fountain Valley, faces murder and attempted murder charges in connection with a gang hit, prosecutors said, and Bac Duong, of Santa Ana, faces an attempted murder charge and was being held without bail on an immigration hold pending a possible federal deportation hearing.
Duong was ordered deported from the United States in 1998, but remained in the country. His appeal was dismissed and Duong was taken into Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in 2003, but later released on an order of supervision. He complied with that order until August 2014, according to ICE, which lodged a detainer against him following his Orange County arrest and sought notification before his release.
Robert Kovacik and City News Service contributed to this report.