Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

This is an archival story that predates current editorial management.

This archival content was written, edited, and published prior to LAist's acquisition by its current owner, Southern California Public Radio ("SCPR"). Content, such as language choice and subject matter, in archival articles therefore may not align with SCPR's current editorial standards. To learn more about those standards and why we make this distinction, please click here.


Taxi Driver Kidnapped By Escaped OC Inmates Tells His Harrowing Tale

Before you
Dear reader, we're asking you to help us keep local news available for all. Your financial support keeps our stories free to read, instead of hidden behind paywalls. We believe when reliable local reporting is widely available, the entire community benefits. Thank you for investing in your neighborhood.

The taxi driver who was kidnapped and held for several days by three escaped inmates in Orange County recounts his harrowing tale. Long Ma, 74, of Garden Grove works as an independent taxi driver, according to the OC Register. He was kidnapped by three escaped inmates and held for seven days. During that week, nobody had reported him missing. At one point, two of the inmates got into a physical fight over whether or not they should murder him.

Jonathan Tieu, 20, Bac Duong, 43, and Hossein Nayeri, 37, all escaped from Men's Central Jail in Santa Ana on January 22, after plotting the breakout for several months. After cutting through metal grates and bars, maneuvering through plumbing tunnels to the roof and rappelling with ropes made from sheets and clothing down the side of the building, the trio was allegedly picked up by an associate of Duong's and taken to a home in Westminster. They visited a few other homes before calling a taxi from a restaurant in Santa Ana to take them to a Target in Rosemead. The responding taxi driver was Ma.

Ma only speaks Vietnamese and advertised his taxi services in a Vietnamese newspaper. Duong and Tieu both had alleged ties to area Vietnamese gangs.

Ma took the men to the Target, where Nayeri shopped as the other men waited outside with Ma. They next persuaded Ma to drive them somewhere else, but as they were giving him verbal directions to the supposed location, Duong pushed a gun into Ma's side.

Support for LAist comes from

"I was in a panic. I said, 'Help me, I'll do whatever you say,'" he told the Register.

Nayeri took the wheel and Ma was forced into the backseat. Commandeering his taxi wasn't enough, however. The trio took Ma along on several errands, demanding he check them into cheap motels and cash their checks. At the motels, the men drank and watched coverage of their escape on the news, and Ma said that they were proud of what they'd done.

The day after Ma was kidnapped, Duong stole a white van that had been advertised on Craigslist, but the three escapees kept both Ma and the taxi, heading up to San Jose.

It was at a motel in San Jose that Nayeri and Duong got into a heated fight that came to blows. Ma said Duong told him that Nayeri wanted to kill him, and would probably kill the both of them, and said they should escape together. "Dead or alive—it's up to God," Ma told the L.A. Times. "I know I have no control over what happens to me." Duong was the nicest to Ma, buying him cigarettes and food. When Nayeri and Tieu went to get the van's windows tinted, the pair took off in the taxi.

They ended up back in Santa Ana, where Duong went to a shop owned by a friend and had the friend's wife call police to come and get him. At that point, Duong allowed Ma to drive away in his taxi again, waving at him as he left.

Tieu and Nayeri were both arrested in San Francisco after a tipster reported seeing the stolen white van in a Whole Foods parking lot. Nayeri took off on foot but was quickly apprehended, while Tieu was discovered hiding in the van.

Authorities have also arrested the man who allegedly picked the three inmates up following their escape, but have released an ESL teacher who taught classes at the jail who allegedly provided a Google map of the complex to Nayeri, saying there was not enough evidence to show she'd committed a crime.