Escaped California inmates likely had inside help, security experts say

SANTA ANA, Calif. - Three California inmates who sawed through a metal grate, crawled through plumbing tunnels and shimmied to freedom down a rope made from bed linens likely had help to pull off the daring plan and also benefited from the complacency of jail staff, security experts said Monday.

See Full Article

The inmates vanished early Friday in a jail break eerily similar to the escape of two inmates from an upstate New York prison last summer. Those men also cut through a portion of wall hidden under a bunk bed and used piping and tunnels inside the facility to reach the outside.

The California inmates, including one who is charged with murder, were still at large Monday. Jail officials did not realize they were missing until roughly 16 hours after they were last seen because an evening headcount was delayed by an assault on a guard.

A major question for investigators will be how the men were able to plan and execute their flight with such precision, said Kevin Tamez, a managing partner for MPM Group, a Philadelphia-based firm that consults on prison security, management and infrastructure.

It's likely someone slipped them blueprints or told them how the bowels of the jail were laid out, he said.

"If I were whoever's investigating, there are some people who would be on a polygraph, I guarantee you," Tamez said. "They had to have had some inside help."

Lt. Jeff Hallock, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department, said there is no evidence so far that the trio had help from the inside but authorities know it's a possibility.

Jonathan Tieu, 20, Bac Duong, 43, and Hossein Nayeri, 37, were all awaiting trials for unrelated violent crimes at the Men's Central Jail. They were held in a dormitory with about 65 other men.

They cut through a quarter-inch-thick grill on a dormitory wall and got into plumbing tunnels before sawing through half-inch-thick steel bars as they made their way behind walls to an unguarded area of a roof atop a five-story building. There, they moved aside razor wire and rappelled to the ground using the bed linen.

It was the first escape in nearly three decades from the California facility built in 1968. The jail holds 900 men and is located in Santa Ana, about 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

The similarities to last summer's escape in New York point to complacency among guards and administrators at the California facility, experts said.

"This summer we had this huge escape from Clinton Prison in New York and every prison or jail administrator in the country should have said to themselves, 'Huh, I wonder if I am vulnerable?' and should have checked their steam shafts and tunnels and every other thing that gives access to the outside," said Martin Horn, a professor of corrections at John Jay College of Criminal Justice at City University of New York.

Motion sensor cameras - available for $55 and often used as baby monitors - can be installed along interior tunnels and pipes to catch inmates, Tamez said.

Thorough searches of dorms likely would have discovered the tools used or damage to the vent grill, he said.

Hallock said the jail's general policy is to do walk-throughs every hour to check on inmates. More involved searches are done randomly, he said, but declined to be more specific.

It's also unclear why the inmates - who were charged with violent felonies - were housed in a common dorm with more than 60 other inmates. Assignment to a large, busy room likely made it easier for them to avoid detection, Horn said.

Authorities believe Tieu and Duong remain in Southern California, possibly hiding out in the local Vietnamese community in Orange County. Officials held a news conference in Vietnamese to ask for help.

Federal authorities are offering $50,000 in rewards for information leading to their recapture.

Tieu had been held on a $1 million bond since October 2013 on charges of murder, attempted murder and shooting at an inhabited dwelling in an alleged gang dispute.

Nayeri had been held without bond since September 2014 on charges of kidnapping, torture, aggravated mayhem and burglary. Authorities say he kidnapped a marijuana dealer, burned him with a blow torch and cut off his penis because Nayeri thought the man had buried money in the desert.

Duong has been held without bond since last month on charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and other counts in the shooting of a man on his front porch.

The three were also charged late Friday with a felony for the escape itself, a charge that could carry a three-year sentence for Tieu and a nine-year sentence for Duong because of a previous conviction.

-----

Associated Press writer Amy Taxin contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Trump Jr calls it 'nonsense' that family's profiting from presidency

    World News CTV News
    Donald Trump Jr. gives a thumbs up as he arrives for a meeting in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup) Source
  • Widow of avalanche victim sues guides, lodge operator for negligence

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER - The widow of an Alberta man who died in an avalanche near Golden, B.C., is suing the guides, their mountain guide association and the lodge operator for negligence. Douglas and Sheila Churchill were among 13 people skiing in the backcountry, about 50 kilometres northwest of Golden, when a large avalanche struck in February 2016. Source
  • Storm causes disruptions across New Zealand

    World News CTV News
    WELLINGTON, New Zealand - Mudslides blocked the only road to a small New Zealand town Wednesday after a powerful Pacific storm caused disruptions across parts of the country. The 1,000 tourists and 5,000 locals in Takaka are not entirely trapped, but would have to use a boat, helicopter or small plane to leave town now or wait a week or more before the road is cleared and repaired. Source
  • Canada welcomes release of final text of CPTPP deal

    Canada News CBC News
    The final version of a landmark deal aimed at cutting trade barriers in some of the Asia-Pacific's fastest-growing economies was released on Wednesday, signalling the pact was a step closer to reality even without its star member the United States. Source
  • Quebec man pleads guilty to importing cocaine into Australia

    Canada News CTV News
    One of three Quebecers charged with importing a large amount of cocaine into Australia in 2016 has pleaded guilty. New South Wales District Court spokeswoman Felicia Benedikovics says Andre Tamine pleaded guilty last Friday to importing cocaine in commercial quantities and will be sentenced on Oct. Source
  • Roof of community arena collapses in Calgary neighbourhood, nobody hurt

    Canada News CTV News
    CALGARY - No one was hurt when the roof of a small arena collapsed in a Calgary neighbourhood. The failure of the roof at the Fairview Community Centre Tuesday afternoon came only a day after the building was evacuated due to concerns about its structural integrity. Source
  • Japan sees transfer at sea that may violate North Korea sanctions

    World News CTV News
    TOKYO -- Japan's military has witnessed a ship-to-ship transfer on the high seas that it "strongly suspects" violates U.N. sanctions on North Korea, in the third such incident reported by Japan in the past month. Source
  • North Korea calls off meeting with Mike Pence 'at the last minute,' White House says

    World News CBC News
    U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence was all set to hold a history-making meeting with North Korean officials during the Winter Olympics in South Korea, but Kim Jong-un's government cancelled at the last minute, the Trump administration said Tuesday. Source
  • 'We aren't politicians, but we have voices': Shooting survivors push lawmakers on gun laws

    World News CTV News
    A group of students who survived a massacre at their Florida high school is optimistic that their anti-gun message will be heard by the state’s Republican politicians. A busload of students headed to Tallahassee Tuesday in hopes of pushing legislators to adopt stricter gun control laws in the wake of the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and faculty members were killed last Wednesday. Source
  • Week of reckoning on White House aides' access to secrets

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- It's a week of reckoning for White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and dozens of other officials who have been working without permanent security clearances for the better part of a year. Those who have been operating with interim access to top secret information since before June are set to see that access halted Friday under a new policy enacted last week by chief of staff John Kelly. Source