1 jail escapee also was a fugitive in 2012 Newport Beach kidnapping and torture case, authorities say

A cut steel screen shows where inmates made access to a plumbing tunnel while escaping from Orange County Jail.
(Orange County Sheriff’s Department)

One of the three inmates who escaped from Orange County Jail on Friday was a fugitive from local law enforcement once before in connection with a 2012 kidnapping in Newport Beach that eventually landed him in the county lockup.

Hossein Nayeri, 37, fled to his native Iran after the kidnapping, in which authorities say a marijuana dispensary owner was abducted from his Newport home and dumped in the Mojave Desert after his penis was cut off in an attempt to extort him.

Nayeri was arrested by FBI agents in November 2013 in Prague, Czech Republic, where he was changing planes to visit family in Spain, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office. He is accused of kidnapping and torture.

Three other people were arrested in California in connection with the case.

Nayeri was extradited in September 2014 and had been in custody at the Orange County Men’s Central Jail in Santa Ana until Friday.

That’s when Nayeri and two other inmates — Jonathan Tieu, 20, and Bac Duong, 43 — escaped sometime after a 5 a.m. head count, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

Authorities believe the three used tools to cut through a metal screen so they could access the building’s plumbing. From there, they reportedly cut through more barriers and made their way to the roof, where they used ropes made from bed linens to rappel five stories to the ground.

More than 16 hours later, around 9 p.m., deputies completed an evening head count and found that the three were missing, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

In a news conference Monday morning, sheriff’s officials declined to describe the tools the inmates used and would not comment about whether the trio had help from inside or outside the jail.

“We do believe this was a well-planned, well-thought-out escape,” said Lt. Jeff Hallock, Sheriff’s Department spokesman.

The escape prompted a manhunt that has continued around the clock, according to Hallock.

Officials asked the public to call in any leads. They repeatedly cautioned that the escapees are very dangerous and likely armed.

Sheriff’s officials said Monday that there’s no indication that Nayeri or the others fled the country or even the state.

It’s possible, but local investigators are partnering with the U.S. marshal’s office and FBI to try to make sure that doesn’t happen, according to sheriff’s Lt. Dave Sawyer, who is leading the search.

Teams have served more than 30 search warrants so far as they look for the escapees, Sawyer said Monday.

All three inmates were incarcerated while awaiting trial in connection with violent felonies.

Tieu is charged with murder and Duong with attempted murder. Both are documented gang members, according to Sawyer.

Nayeri has a previous homicide conviction, Sawyer said. Details of that case were not immediately available.

In the Newport Beach case, kidnappers broke into the dispensary owner’s house after surveilling him and following him to the desert, where they believed he had buried large amounts of money from his business, according to prosecutors.

After the break-in, the kidnappers loaded the man and a female roommate into a truck or van and drove them to the Mojave Desert. They beat the man, burned him with a torch, poured bleach over him and cut off his penis, according to prosecutors.

Eventually the assailants left, taking the severed penis with them so it couldn’t be reattached, prosecutors said.

Both victims were left in the desert to die, Sawyer said. But the woman walked more than a mile in the dark and reached a highway where a Kern County sheriff’s deputy discovered her and rescued the man.

Days later, Newport Beach police arrested Fountain Valley marijuana grower Kyle Shirakawa Handley, who authorities said had supplied marijuana for the dispensary owner’s business. After a high-rolling Las Vegas trip together, Handley believed the man had a large amount of money that could be stolen, according to prosecutors.

Two other suspects, Ryan Anthony Kevorkian and Naomi Josette Kevorkian, were later arrested in Fresno.