courtroom
Courtroom Trial - Photo courtesy of Gorodenkoff on Shutterstock

The second of three Orange County Jail inmates involved in a daring January 2016 escape was scheduled to go on trial Monday.

Hossein Nayeri, 44, is charged with escaping custody, car theft and kidnapping for carjacking, all felonies. A charge of kidnapping to commit robbery was dismissed Tuesday, according to court records.

Co-defendant Bac Tien Duong, 50, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in July. Duong, who was in custody at the time of the escape on attempted murder, resolved that case as well when he was sentenced.

Duong was convicted in April of 2021 for the escape. He was acquitted of felony kidnapping for robbery, but convicted of the lesser charge of simple kidnapping. A mistrial was declared when jurors could not reach a verdict on the car theft.

Co-defendant Jonathan Tieu, 27, is awaiting trial.

The trio’s daring Jan. 22, 2016, escape from the Central Men’s Jail in Santa Ana was made possible when they got hold of cutting tools to saw through metal gates and then used smuggled cell phones to communicate with co-conspirators outside the lockup. They were loose for a week before authorities caught up with Nayeri.

When they got out they called unlicensed cab driver Long Ma, took his phone and forced him to go with them, Duong’s prosecutor, Jake Jondle, told jurors in Duong’s trial.

Ma begged them to let him go, but he was told he had to go with them because it would look less suspicious, Jondle said.

Nayeri was in custody at the time awaiting trial for the sexual mutilation of a marijuana dispensary owner in a kidnapping-extortion scheme. Nayeri was convicted in that case in August of 2019 and was sentenced in October 2020 to life in prison without parole.

Loc Ba Nguyen, who helped the three break out, testified in Duong’s trial that they were “happy and relieved” as they piled into his car and grew more excited the further they got away from the jail.

Nguyen said he met Duong about 20 years ago when Duong got a job working at Nguyen’s business in Brea. Over time they grew to be friends, he said.

They lost touch for about 10 years and Nguyen later started up a new handyman business. But the two reconnected and Nguyen recounted how he drove to the jail in Santa Ana one night to drop off a duffel bag containing a cell phone outside.

Nguyen said he saw “some kind of makeshift rope” outside the jail and he tied it to the duffel bag and “walked away” without looking. A few days later Nguyen got a call from the phone and it was Duong asking for more supplies, he said.

“The second delivery consisted of another cellphone, rope and I don’t recall the other items, but I know there was a second phone and rope,” Nguyen said. “The first cellphone did not have a charger so I had to purchase a new phone and a charger as well.”

Nguyen said he would pick up the three, but when he drove to the jail one night he waited and when he didn’t see anyone he went back home to Costa Mesa, he testified.

But then he got another call about 4 or 5 a.m. to return, Nguyen testified.

“I made a statement I didn’t want to come back because it was getting to be almost morning and he said come back, come back,” Nguyen testified.

Nguyen returned to the jail and parked in a dead-end street, he testified.

“I parked and within a matter of 10 minutes all three came into the truck,” Nguyen testified.

When asked what their mood was, Nguyen said, “I would say relief.”

The plan was for Nguyen to “drop them at one location and then I was going home,” he testified.

Duong gave Nguyen directions to the home of Tung Nguyen, who pleaded guilty in November 2018 to being an accessory after the fact and was sentenced to 40 hours of community service.

Nguyen said it was a “very foggy night,” so he was careful to keep his eye on the road as he helped the inmates escape custody.

“They were happy,” Nguyen said. “Again, it was more like relief, happy.”

As they got to the home of Tung Nguyen, who is no relation to Loc Nguyen, the three were showing “a little more excitement in their tone of voice, happy,” Loc Nguyen testified.

Duong got “four or five bottles of beer and cash” at Tung Nguyen’s home, Loc Nguyen testified.

“I said, I’m out of here,” Loc Nguyen testified.

Later, Nayeri called Loc Nguyen on the contraband cellphone and asked him, “how to transfer money from Iran or Iraq to a checking account here to America,” Loc Nguyen testified.

“I told him I don’t know and gave him a number of a gentleman — I believe he’s from Lebanon — who I bought the cellphone from and said, `You need to call this gentleman and he can help you with the transfer of the money,”’ Loc Nguyen testified.

Days later when Loc Nguyen was in Palm Springs participating in a bicycle ride for charity, the inmates called him, asking if they could use his white van, but Nguyen said it was inoperable.

Investigators approached Nguyen while he was in Palm Springs and he began cooperating with them, he testified.

Nguyen pleaded guilty in June 2017 and was sentenced to a year in jail, but served his time in home confinement because he said he had a stroke on his sentencing date.

Nguyen called Long Ma, who picked them up at Tung Nguyen’s residence in Westminster and took them to a Target store in the city before taking them to another one in Rosemead for $100, Jondle said.

Along the way they stayed at several hotels together, Jondle said.

“If Mr. Ma wanted to do anything he had to ask permission,” Jondle said, adding that at the time Ma was 72.

The three drove to 917 W. 85th St. in South Los Angeles, where they met a man who was selling a van on Craigslist, Jondle said.

Duong went on a test ride with the owner and when he agreed to buy the vehicle and the owner went into his home briefly Duong jumped into the van and drove off, Jondle said.

The escapees then “make their way to San Jose and then San Francisco,” Jondle said.

“After five or six days… the honeymoon phase… sours,” Jondle said.

Duong took the gun and made Ma take him back to Santa Ana, Jondle said.

“He told Ma we’ll split the reward” for the capture of the escapees, Jondle said.

Duong turned himself in with help from a friend in the Santa Ana Police Department, Jondle said.

Tieu and Nayeri were caught the next day following a tip from a transient, who ultimately collected a reward.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *