Two of three inmates who escaped from the Central Men’s Jail in Santa Ana were returned to Orange County early this morning after their capture in San Francisco.
Hossein Nayeri, 37, of Newport Beach and Jonathan Tieu, 20, of Fountain Valley were returned to Santa Ana about 1 a.m., according to Orange County sheriff’s Capt. Jeff Hallock.
Police arrested the two Saturday morning after being tipped off by someone who spotted a white van they were using in the parking lot of a Whole Foods Market.
The other escapee, 43-year-old Bac Duong, was arrested Friday in Santa Ana, his city of residence.
All three escaped the jail on Jan. 22.
The white van, which authorities say was stolen in South Los Angeles a day after the escape from someone who had placed a Craigslist ad offering the vehicle for sale, was spotted about 8:50 a.m. Saturday in the parking lot at 690 Stanyan St. in San Francisco’s famed Haight-Ashbury district, Orange County Sheriffs Sandra Hutchens said.
Officers from the San Francisco Police Department’s Park District station were on an unrelated medical aid call in the area when a man approached the officers and pointed out a white van in the parking lot.
“Officers approached the van as Hossein Nayeri fled the area on foot,’ Hutchens said. “A short foot pursuit ensued before Nayeri was taken into custody.’
Officers immediately returned to the white van, Hutchens said, and discovered Tieu hiding inside.
Officers then confirmed that the vehicle was the same white GMC Savana van stolen last week.
Hutchens said “a number’ of .380 ammunition rounds were found inside the van, but no weapon was recovered.
Duong was arrested Friday in the 1400 block of North Harbor Boulevard, according to Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.
He approached a civilian, who called police at 11:21 a.m., Bertagna said.
“Bac Duong contacted a civilian on the streets of Santa Ana and stated he wanted to turn himself in,” Hutchens said Friday.
An employee of Auto Electric Rebuilders, 1421 N. Harbor Blvd., told reporters Duong walked into the store and said he wanted to surrender. Duong is apparently acquainted with the store’s owner and his wife, and he spoke to the wife, who called 911, according to reports from the scene.
Duong is believed to have taken the white GMC Savana van for a test drive, then stole it. Investigators had said they believed the three escapees were living out of the vehicle while on the lam.
Hallock said all three escapees were spotted Thursday in San Jose, but Duong somehow made his way back to Santa Ana to surrender.
On Thursday, a 44-year-old Lake Forest woman who taught English classes at the jail was arrested for allegedly providing information to Nayeri, who was one of her jailhouse students.
Nooshafarin Ravaghi, who works for the Rancho Santiago Community College District, had been teaching English-as-a-second-language classes at the jail since July 2014, according to Hallock.
She is also an associate faculty member at Saddleback College, according to the Mission Viejo college’s website, and has her own website, The Noosha Collection, which can be found at noosharavaghi.com.
Ravaghi was booked on suspicion of being an accessory to a felony, Hallock said. She is tentatively expected to appear in court Monday. She is currently ineligible for bail, Hallock said, but authorities are expected to ask Monday that her bail be set at $500,000.
Hallock said Nayeri took her class at the jail and developed a relationship with Ravaghi, Hallock said.
“It is believed Ravaghi directly contributed to the Jan. 22 escape of the three inmates and provided critical planning tools that aided in their preparation for the escape,” Hallock said.
The exact nature of her alleged assistance was still being investigated, but she is believed to have provided information such as Google Earth maps to Nayeri — the alleged mastermind of the escape — showing aerial views of the jail, an adjacent women’s jail and an intake center. Hallock said Ravaghi has denied providing Nayeri with any tools used in the escape.
Hallock said the extent of the relationship Nayeri developed with Ravaghi was still unclear. It’s also unclear if she knew Nayeri was plotting an escape.
“We don’t have any information to determine it (the relationship) was in fact romantic,” Hallock said. “It was much closer and much more personal than it should have been.”
Nayeri and Ravaghi are both natives of Iran. Hallock said there is no information indicating the pair were acquainted before meeting in the jail class — a class Nayeri was taking even though he already spoke English. Their ultimate relationship, however, “leads us to believe she played a significant role in the planning” of the escape, Hallock said.
Hallock said Thursday that around 10 people have been arrested since the escape a week ago. Several other arrests — for unrelated warrants or probation issues — also took place during the manhunt.
The three inmates disappeared after a 5 a.m. body count in the jail, but they were not discovered missing until close to 9 p.m., when the second daily body count was conducted. Nayeri had been in custody since September 2014, Tieu since October 2013 and Duong since December.
Hutchens said Wednesday she suspects Nayeri was the “mastermind” of the breakout based on his military training in the U.S. Armed Forces.
The search for the escaped inmates focused heavily on a Vietnamese gang active in Westminster and Garden Grove. Hallock said there may also be connections between the escapees and Vietnamese organized crime.
On Tuesday, the Orange County Board of Supervisors quadrupled the reward for information that leads to the inmates’ recapture, boosting it to $200,000. The FBI and U.S. Marshals Service pledged the initial $50,000.
Nayeri is accused of participating in an attack, including torture, against a Newport Beach resident who ran a licensed marijuana dispensary in Santa Ana. He allegedly used a blowtorch on the victim and cut of his penis.
Tieu faces murder and attempted murder charges in connection with a gang hit.
Duong faces an attempted murder charge and was being held without bail on an immigration hold pending a possible federal deportation hearing.
Felony escape charges were filed Monday against the three inmates.
“Because they are escapers, they will be housed in a different area, in a different manner,’ Hutchens said Saturday. “We have been looking at the causes of the escape from day one. The focus shifts, continuing to look at where the system failed us. That will take some time.”
–City News Service