Orange County jail escapee fled the law before, fleeing to Iran

Hossein Nayeri had run before. When confronted by the law, it seemed to be his reflex.

Soon after detectives began investigating the October 2012 kidnapping and torture of a Newport Beach marijuana dispensary owner, Nayeri, who was one of the chief suspects, fled the country.

He escaped to Iran, a country where he seemed well beyond the reach of Orange County authorities. En route to an expected meeting with his wife and sister in Spain, however, he stopped in the Czech Republic, where authorities arrested and extradited him.

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Nayeri, 37, had been awaiting trial in the Orange County jail in Santa Ana when he managed to break out Friday, along with two other inmates. It was a scheme that authorities believe may have been weeks or months in the works.

Nayeri faced the possibility of life in prison if convicted on charges of kidnapping, aggravated mayhem, torture and burglary.

The crime he stood accused of was particularly cruel. Authorities say Nayeri had become convinced that a Newport Beach man who ran lucrative pot dispensaries had a stash of money in the Mojave Desert.

Prosecutors allege Nayeri masterminded a plot to kidnap the man and began surveilling him.

On Oct. 2, 2012, prosecutors say, Nayeri and codefendants Ryan Kevorkian and Kyle Handley broke into the Newport Beach home where the man was staying and kidnapped him, along with a woman who was dating the owner of the home.

At a preliminary hearing in March 2015, Newport Beach Police Sgt. Ryan Peters testified that someone struck the man in the face with the stock of a shotgun and that he was cuffed with zip ties, gagged and blindfolded.

Authorities said the attackers dragged the man and woman to a van and drove them to the desert, a 2 1/2-hour drive. The attackers said they believed the man had $1 million, but he told them he could get them $40,000 cash, Peters testified.

According to authorities, the attackers — who wore disguises and adopted obviously fake Latino accents — punched the man, Tasered him, burned him with a butane torch and cut off his penis. As they left, the woman told an investigator, the attackers left a knife behind and told her to count to 100 and then free herself, but not to call police.

She cut herself free and ran a mile before flagging down a Kern County sheriff's patrol car, officials said. The pair were rushed to Antelope Valley Hospital.

Prosecutors said that about a week before the kidnapping, Newport Beach police attempted to stop Nayeri for a routine traffic violation, but Nayeri sped away, crashed his car and fled on foot.

Police found surveillance equipment inside the abandoned car but did not know of its possible significance in the crime being plotted.

The men who escaped with Nayeri, Bac Tien Duong, 43, and Jonathan Tieu, 20, of Fountain Valley, were being held in unrelated cases. Duong faces charges of attempted murder, assault with a firearm and residential burglary. Tieu faces charges of special circumstances murder in connection with what authorities describe as a gang-related slaying.

Robert K. Weinberg, the attorney representing Kyle Handley, one of the codefendants in the kidnapping case, said that when he learned about the jailbreak, he immediately believed Nayeri was the mastermind.

"The first thought I had was, 'He got away and probably recruited the others to do it with him,'" he said.

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In 2005, Nayeri was arrested in connection with a drunk-driving death in Madera County, according to Roger Bonakdar, an attorney representing relatives of the victim, Ehsan Tousi.

Tousi, a 26-year-old aspiring sports broadcaster, was the passenger in Nayeri's vehicle when it flipped over and crashed.

Nayeri was arrested and posted bond, but he later fled the country, according to Bonakdar.

He was captured in Washington, D.C., in 2006 and returned to California, where he pleaded guilty to drunk driving and causing great bodily injury.

Under the terms of the deal, Nayeri was sentenced to one year in prison and probation, Bonakdar said.

Several calls to the Madera County district attorney's office seeking information about the case were not returned.

Nayeri, who grew up in the Fresno area and graduated from the same high school as Tousi, had no prior felony convictions at the time, Bonakdar said.

In 2011, Nayeri was arrested in Irvine on charges of domestic battery, false imprisonment and making criminal threats. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of disturbing the peace, according to court records.

Officials believe Nayeri and the other two inmates planned the escape for some time. Police have launched a massive manhunt and warned the public that all three should be considered dangerous.

Weinberg, the attorney, said the kidnapping underscores the danger Nayeri poses.

"What the victim went through in this case is unspeakable," he said.

christopher.goffard@latimes.com | Twitter: @LATChrisGoffard

richard.winton@latimes.com | Twitter: @LAcrimes

james.queally@latimes.com | Twitter: @JamesQueallyLAT

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on January 26, 2016, in the News section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "He had fled in the past - Soon after authorities began investigating a kidnapping and torture in 2012, Hossein Nayeri escaped to Iran" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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