NATIONAL NEWS

California jailbreak mastermind sentenced for daring escape

Mar 24, 2023, 4:07 PM | Updated: 4:42 pm

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A man serving a life sentence for kidnapping and mutilating a marijuana dispensary owner was given an additional sentence Friday for masterminding a daring, elaborate escape from a Southern California jail.

Hossein Nayeri, 44, was sentenced to the maximum of two years and eight months in state prison for the Jan. 22, 2016, escape from the Orange County Men’s Central Jail in Santa Ana and for stealing a van while on the run.

Nayeri and two other men used smuggled tools to cut through the half-inch bars on a metal grate in their maximum-security dorm cell, then climbed through plumbing shafts within the walls to reach the roof, where they rappelled down five stories using a rope made of bed linens, according to authorities and a cellphone video shot by Nayeri.

The men then kidnapped a 72-year-old unlicensed tax driver at gunpoint and forced him to drive them away at gunpoint, prosecutors said.

Over five days, the man drove the fugitives around as they fled, stopping at various motels as they took his car and a stolen van hundreds of miles north to San Jose, prosecutors said.

One escapee, Bac Tien Duong, later feared that the driver would be 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.

The taxi driver testified at Nayeri’s trial and credited Duong with saving his life. Nayeri was convicted last week of the jailbreak and stealing the van but acquitted of kidnapping, a charge that carried a potential life sentence.

Duong was convicted of escape and kidnapping in 2021 and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Tieu is awaiting trial for the escape, prosecutors said.

At the time of his jailbreak, Nayeri was awaiting trial on charges that he and two friends kidnapped, tortured and mutilated a marijuana dispensary owner in 2012. The owner and a woman acquaintance were 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 piping, shocked with a Taser, burned with a blowtorch and finally his penis was cut off before the robbers fled, prosecutors said. The money was never found.

Nayeri fled to Iran. But he was later caught in the Czech Republic and extradited. In 2020, he was given two life sentences without the possibility of parole for kidnapping and a consecutive seven-year term for torture.

Nayeri’s co-defendants also were convicted.

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California jailbreak mastermind sentenced for daring escape