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

  • Airbag maker Takata expected to file for bankruptcy Monday

    World News CBC News
    Drowning in a sea of lawsuits and recall costs, Japanese airbag maker Takata Corp. is expected to seek bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and the United States early Monday. Takata was done in by defective airbag inflators that can explode with too much force, spewing out shrapnel. Source
  • Ottawa festival partners with police to provide 'amnesty drug bin'

    Canada News CTV News
    Ottawa’s Escapade Festival has partnered with the Ottawa Police Service to provide an amnesty drug bin for festival-goers this weekend to get the summer festival season off to a safe start. Two banners above the entrance to the festival advise attendees to “dispose of illegal drugs in amnesty bin on the left,” referring to a small covered tent set up by Ottawa police to allow people to anonymously drop off unwanted illegal drugs before entering the venue. Source
  • Canada's Lance Stroll makes history at Azerbaijan Grand Prix

    Canada News CBC News
    Canadian driver Lance Stroll finished third and became the youngest rookie to race to a podium finish on the F1 circuit. The 18-year-old accomplished this piece of history at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday. Source
  • Prince Harry once 'wanted out' of royal family

    World News Toronto Sun
    LONDON — Prince Harry says he once “wanted out” of the royal family. In an interview published in the Mail on Sunday, the prince said the time he spent in the army was “the best escape I’ve ever had” and that he once considered giving up his title. Source
  • 10 bodies found, scores still missing after massive China landslide [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    MAO COUNTY, China — Rescuers recovered 10 bodies and were still searching for 93 other people on Sunday, a day after a massive landslide buried a picturesque mountain village in southwestern China. More than 2,500 rescuers with detection devices and dogs were looking for signs of life amid the rubble of huge boulders that rained down on Xinmo village in Sichuan province early Saturday. Source
  • Istanbul LGBT Pride parade organizers defiant in face of ban

    World News CBC News
    Activists for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex rights said they will march for LGBT pride in Istanbul on Sunday, despite a ban by the governor. Organizers of the 2017 Istanbul LGBTI Pride called for the gathering to begin at 5 p.m. Source
  • Istanbul's Pride march to go ahead despite governor's ban

    World News CTV News
    ISTANBUL -- Activists for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex rights said they will march for LGBT pride in Istanbul on Sunday, despite a ban by the governor. Organizers of the 2017 Istanbul LGBTI Pride called for the gathering to begin at 5 p.m. Source
  • Testing for combustible panels urged for all U.K. apartment towers

    World News CBC News
    Britain's government urged local officials across the country Sunday to urgently submit samples of tower block cladding after tests found that all samples tested so far have failed fire safety standards.Why Grenfell Tower became a raging, wind tunnel of a fireIn London, officials tried Sunday to complete the evacuation of hundreds of apartments in four towers deemed unsafe, but faced resistance as several families refused to budge. Source
  • 'I could hear people screaming'; Oil tanker explodes in Pakistan, killing 153 who tried to gather leaking fuel [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    BAHAWALPUR, Pakistan — An overturned oil tanker burst into flames in Pakistan on Sunday, killing 153 people who had rushed to the scene of the highway accident to gather leaking fuel, a hospital official said as the death toll continued to rise. Source
  • UK: All building cladding samples tested failed fire safety

    World News CTV News
    LONDON -- Britain's government urged local officials across the country Sunday to urgently submit samples of tower block cladding after tests found that all samples tested so far have failed fire safety standards. In London, officials tried Sunday to complete the evacuation of hundreds of apartments in four towers deemed unsafe, but faced resistance as several families refused to budge. Source