Three inmates who pulled off an intricate getaway from a California jail had outside help from a man who slipped them escape tools and gave them a ride to safety before they kidnapped a taxi driver at gunpoint and held him captive for a week while arguing over whether to kill him, authorities said Monday.
The details emerged at news conferences by prosecutors and the Orange County Sheriff's Department that answered many of the remaining questions surrounding the escape and eight-day manhunt, which ended with the capture of all three fugitives.
Hossein Nayeri, who was awaiting trial on charges of torture and kidnapping, planned the escape for five months before co-conspirator Bac Duong was booked into Central Men's Jail in Orange County in December and helped with an outside contact, sheriff's Capt. Jeff Hallock said.
Jonathan Tieu, who was awaiting trial on a gang-related murder charge, also joined the plot, authorities said.
"This took a while," Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said. "To defeat these security systems, to defeat these metal grates, to defeat these 1-inch bars, it took some time."
Once out, the three were picked up by an accomplice and driven to safety.
That night, Duong kidnapped a taxi driver at gunpoint and stole a van the next day in Los Angeles, authorities said. The fugitives and the cab driver spent three nights at a motel in Southern California before they drove 400 miles north to the San Francisco Bay Area in the taxi and van.
Nayeri and Duong later had a fistfight in a San Jose motel room over whether to kill the taxi driver, Hallock said. Nayeri wanted to kill the cab driver and Duong did not, authorities believe.
When Nayeri and Tieu left to get the van's windows tinted later the next day, Duong drove back to Southern California with the cab driver and surrendered Friday at an auto repair shop in Orange County just miles from the jail.
Nayeri and Tieu were arrested Saturday in San Francisco after a man spotted the stolen van near a Whole Foods Market parking lot. The three inmates will now be held in isolation cells, Hallock said.
Loc Ba Nguyen, who knew Duong, visited the jail several times and provided the men with items to aid their escape, Hallock said. He also picked them up after they escaped, he said.
Nguyen, who authorities said he didn't work in the jail, has been charged with felony counts of possession of a weapon in a place of custody, carrying or sending a useful aid to escape from a jail or prison and aiding escape, with a criminal enhancement for being in possession of a dangerous or deadly weapon.
Prosecutors said, meanwhile, that they wouldn't charge Nooshafarin Ravaghi, 44, an Iranian-born English teacher at the jail who investigators suspect of helping Nayeri, an Iranian-born former Marine. Ravaghi is believed to have provided Nayeri with a Google Earth map that showed an aerial view of the jail complex, Hallock said.