Mastermind of Southern California Jailbreak Sentenced

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SANTA ANA, Calif. — An inmate who staged a daring and elaborate escape in Southern California in 2016 was convicted Thursday of the escape but acquitted of kidnapping a taxi driver as he fled, authorities said.

Orange County Superior Court jurors also convicted Hossein Nayeri, 44, of Newport Beach of stealing a pickup truck, but acquitted him of kidnapping during a carjacking and misdemeanor charges, the district attorney’s office said in a release.

On January 22, 2016, Nayeri and two other men escaped from the Orange County Central Jail Complex in Santa Ana, sparking a week-long manhunt.

Using smuggled tools, they cut through a metal grate in his maximum-security dormitory cell, then climbed through plumbing shafts inside the walls to reach the ceiling, where they descended five stories using a rope made of bedding, according to authorities and a cell phone video filmed by Nayeri.

The men later kidnapped a 72-year-old unlicensed taxi driver. On occasion, the driver was held at gunpoint while he led the men. The men then stole a pickup truck, taking the two vehicles and the driver as they drove hundreds of miles north toward the San Francisco Bay Area, authorities said.

A fugitive, Bac Tien Duong, then feared the driver was killed and fled with him back to Southern California, authorities said.

Nayeri and Jonathan Tieu were arrested the next day in San Francisco after a man recognized them from media reports, prosecutors said.

Duong was convicted of escape and kidnapping in 2021. Tieu is awaiting trial for the escape, prosecutors said.

At the time of his escape, Nayeri was awaiting trial on charges that he and two friends kidnapped, tortured, and mutilated the owner of a marijuana dispensary in 2012. The owner was kidnapped from a Newport Beach home because the robbers falsely believed he had buried $1 million in the Mojave Desert, prosecutors said.

He was beaten with rubber tubes, electrocuted with a Taser, burned with a torch and finally had his penis severed before the robbers fled, prosecutors said.

Nayeri fled to Iran. But he was later captured in the Czech Republic and extradited. In 2020 he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Nayeri’s co-defendants were also convicted.

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