Escaped Inmates Kidnapped A Taxi Driver & Shopped At Target, Police Say
Authorities have released new details regarding the escape of three Orange County inmates, including a kidnapped taxi driver and the release of an ESL teacher previously suspected to have helped them break free. Bac Duong, Hossein Nyeri and Jonathan Tieu are all back in jail and are expected to be arraigned on March 4. Details have emerged as to what the three did in their eight days on the loose, as well as to what help they may have had.
Nooshafarin Ravaghi, 44, was arrested last week for allegedly giving inmate Hossein Nayeri, 37, Google maps that showed aerial views of Men's Central Jail in Santa Ana. However, officials have decided to release her today, saying there's not enough evidence to show she committed a crime, according to City News Service. Ravaghi and Nayeri met via an ESL class that Ravaghi taught at the jail. The two were both originally from Iran and became friends. Supposed love letters that were found turned out to have been written by Nayeri, KTLA reports. District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said that while authorities have retained her passport, she's been cooperative and will be released on her own recognizance.
Meanwhile, authorities have arrested Loc Ba Nguyen and say they plan to charge him with smuggling tools used during the escape into the jail. Nguyen is acquainted in some way with inmate Bac Duong, 43, though he is not an inmate, nor does he work at the jail.
Orange County Sheriff's Lt. Jeffrey Hallock said that Nayeri and Jonathan Tieu, 20, began plotting their escape in July of 2015. They would not meet Duong until he was booked at Men's Central Jail in December of 2015.
The escape occurred on Friday, January 22, just after 5 a.m. and following one of two physical body counts conducted daily by jail staff.
Investigators believe the three men cut through a metal grate and bars to gain access to plumbing tunnels, which took them to the jail's roof. They then rappelled down the side of the building using ropes made from sheets and clothing, then took off on foot before being picked up—possibly by Nguyen—and driven to a home in Westminster. The escape was not discovered until around 9 p.m. that night. The second physical body count, which should have occurred at 8 p.m., was delayed by a fight among inmates. Police believe that fight may have been a deliberate distraction to aid the escapees.
The three men went to homes in Westminster, Santa Ana and Huntington Beach before calling for a taxi in Santa Ana. The men took the taxi to a Target in Rosemead, and allegedly kidnapped the driver at about 11:30 p.m. The men would keep the driver with them for several days, the OC Register reports.
On Saturday, January 23, Duong allegedly stole a white GMC van that had been advertised for sale on Craigslist. Hallock said the men crashed for a few days at the Flamingo Inn in Rosemead, along with the taxi driver. Police say the men visited a salon in an El Monte in an attempt to get more incognito hairstyles, and Tieu sent a letter to his mom at a post office in Garden Grove in an attempt to trick authorities.
Eventually, the men took the van, the taxi and the taxi driver to San Jose, where they paid cash for a two-night stay at the Alameda Motel. The motel owner described the men as "quiet, nice and no drama."
At the motel, Duong and Nayeri allegedly got in a fight over whether or not they should murder the driver. When Tieu and Nayeri briefly left the motel to get the van's windows tinted, Duong and the driver took off and headed back south in the taxi. The two men spent the night in Rosemead.
On Friday, January 29, the taxi driver took Duong to Auto Electric Rebuilders in Santa Ana, which is owned by one of Duong's acquaintances. He said he wanted to turn himself in, and so the business owner's wife called police and Duong waited there for authorities to take him into custody. Police believe that Duong may have been urged to turn himself in by fellow members of a Vietnamese gang after police began putting pressure on Vietnamese gangs following the escape.
The taxi driver was not hurt, and investigators say he has been cooperative and is being considered "the victim of a kidnapping."
On the morning of Saturday, January 30, a witness spotted the stolen van in the parking lot of a Whole Foods Market in San Francisco, near Golden Gate Park in the heart of Haight Ashbury, and alerted police. Nayeri tried to run as police approached, but was quickly apprehended, while Tieu was later found hiding in the van. He had ammo, but didn't have a gun.
During this whole ordeal, Nayeri's ex-wife was in hiding, fearing for her life, as she had previously helped authorities apprehend Nayeri in a previous escape attempt.