Four people will split a $150,000 reward for providing information that led to the capture of three escaped Orange County jail inmates in January, officials said Tuesday.
Members of the Orange County Board of Supervisors praised the tipsters' quick thinking Tuesday as they approved payment of the reward money.
The recipients include a homeless man who spotted two of the escapees in a parking lot in San Francisco, two Target store employees and a man who had his van stolen by the fugitives. None of the reward money, however, will go to cab driver Long Ma, who was taken hostage by the escapees at gunpoint.
Officials posted the cash reward shortly after prisoners Bac Duong, Hossein Nayeri and Jonathan Tieu were discovered missing in a daring escape from the Central Men's Jail in Santa Ana on Jan. 22. The men remained at large for nearly a week, triggering a statewide manhunt.
Most of the reward -- $100,000 -- will be given to Matthew Hay-Chapman, the homeless man who spotted Nayeri and Tieu in a stolen van parked near a Whole Foods Market outlet in San Francisco on Jan. 28. Hay-Chapman, who described himself as a "news junkie," told police that he recognized the van when Nayeri opened a door and walked out.
Hay-Chapman said he ran in search of a police officer and led him back to the vehicle. Nayeri attempted to run away from police but was tackled and captured while Tieu was found hiding inside the vehicle. The third escapee, Duong, had surrendered to police a day earlier.
The owner of the van that was spotted in the parking lot, Armando Damian, of Los Angeles, will receive $20,000, officials said. Damian had advertised his 2008 GMC Savana for sale on Craigslist, and was called by what he thought was a prospective buyer shortly after the escape.
Damian told police that an older man came to his address and asked for a test drive, then later took off with the van. Damian reported the vehicle stolen on Jan. 23.
The rest of the reward will be split between two employees of a Target store in Rosemead. Hazel Javier, a store manager, and Jeffrey Arana, a loss-prevention officer, will each receive $15,000.
On the night of Jan. 22, Javier told police she saw two men "acting suspiciously," which caused her to monitor their activity. The next day, Javier shared surveillance video with Arana, who thought the shoppers resembled the fugitives he had seen on a news broadcast.
After the Target workers called law enforcement, investigators discovered that the men bought two prepaid cellphones.
The supervisors voted unanimously to grant reward money to the homeless man and the Target employees. They voted, 4-1, in favor of giving reward money to the van owner. Supervisor Shawn Nelson opposed doing so because he said the van owner did not know it was the escapees who had taken his van.
The kidnapped cab driver, Long Ma, had hoped to share in the reward.
County Supervisor Todd Spitzer initially supported a share for Ma, who claims he suffers post-traumatic stress from the kidnapping. Spitzer later reconsidered his position, pointing out that Ma did not provide information leading to the arrest of the escapees.