Crime & Justice

Authorities up reward to $50K for info about escaped Orange County jail inmates

Authorities are searching for three inmates who escaped from Orange County Central Men's Jail Friday. All are wanted for violent crimes.
Authorities are searching for three inmates who escaped from Orange County Central Men's Jail Friday. All are wanted for violent crimes.
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Sheriff’s deputies are still searching for three inmates after it was discovered on Friday night that they had escaped the Orange County Central Men’s Jail in Santa Ana. 

At a news conference on Sunday afternoon, OC Sheriff Lieutenant Jeff Hallock said investigators were exhausting every lead and hoped members of the public would come forward with information to help apprehend the escaped men. The reward for information leading to arrest of the escaped inmates is now at $50,000.

At the press conference, Hallock said that there are currently two investigations underway: one at the jail that looks at how the escape occurred, and another more pressing investigation to apprehend the three inmates. That search is taking place across Southern California.

"Obviously it's not a good thing when three men escape from a jail," said Hallock. "Our goal is to apprehend all three and make sure that this never happens again."

The escape is believed to have taken place shortly after a 5 a.m. inmate count on Friday. Hallock said investigators believe the inmates moved through plumbing tunnels and ultimately ended up on the roof in an unsecured area where they were then able to repel down to the ground using a makeshift rope. Then they fled on foot.

The three inmates were last confirmed in prison during the 5 a.m. count. A disturbance in the jail delayed an 8 p.m. inmate count. Then at about 9 p.m., authorities discovered that the inmates were unaccounted for at the jail. Authorities are still trying to figure out if the 8 p.m. jail disturbance was part of an escape plan. 

The Associated Press reports that Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said local and federal investigators in several counties have received a number of "very good tips" but have had no concrete sightings of the men. There was no indication any of them have left the country, she said.

"I want to tell the public: Presume that they are armed and do not approach them," Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said on Sunday, according to the AP.

All three inmates have extensive — and violent — rap sheets. Hossein Nayeri, 37, of Newport Beach is accused of kidnapping, burglary and torture. Jonathan Tieu, 20, of Fountain Valley is facing murder, attempted murder and gang-related charges and Bac Duong, 43, of Santa Ana is wanted for vehicle theft, attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon. 

"Based on the charges for these individuals each of the escapees should be considered dangerous," Hallock said. "If anyone sees them, call 911 immediately."

Authorities believe that the three inmates cut through half-inch steel bars in what Hallock called a "clearly well thought-out and planned escape" that "could have taken weeks or even months to plan."

Investigators are reviewing jail surveillance camera footage to see if they find anything that can help the investigation. Hallock said the route the inmates took may not have cameras since they are unsecured areas where inmates typically don’t go. 

Authorities have since secured any areas they believe were compromised as a result of the escape. 

The search for the three men "is a 24/7 operation until these three individuals are caught," Hallock said, noting that the U.S. Marshalls office, FBI, OC District Attorney and OC Probation Department are involved in the search.

The three men also face additional time in prison if caught. Nayeri and Tieu face a maximum sentence of three years, while Duong faces up to nine years due to sentencing enhancements from previous crimes, according to a press release from the OC District Attorney's Office.

Anyone with information is urged to call a hotline at 714-628-7085. 

This story has been updated.