Tips from Vietnamese community sought in search for 3 escaped inmates

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Sheriff's deputies believe the three dangerous inmates who escaped from a maximum-security jail in Santa Ana Friday may be receiving help from their gang ties in the Vietnamese community. (KABC)

The Orange County Sheriff's Department believes the three dangerous inmates who escaped from a maximum-security jail in Santa Ana Friday may still be in the region due to their ties to local Vietnamese gangs.

"We need the Vietnamese community to come forward and help us with leads and tips on what they might know," Orange County sheriff's Lt. Dave Sawyer said. "We understand that the gang involvement of at least the two individuals is pretty strong" and community members could be intimidated by the escapees.

Sawyer and Lt. Jeff Hallock said they're relying heavily on community tips and are asking the public, particularly the Vietnamese community, to come forward with any information that could held them find the suspected criminals.

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Orange County investigators focus on escapees Bac Duong and Jonathan Tieu and their connections to local Asian gangs.

Jonathan Tieu, 20, Bac Duong, 43, and Hossein Nayeri, 37, were all awaiting trial for violent crimes but their cases were unconnected.

Tieu is a well-documented Vietnamese gang member who had been held on a $1 million bond since October 2013 on charges of murder, attempted murder and shooting at an inhabited dwelling.

His mother, Lu Ann Nguyen, and sister tearfully pleaded for him to surrender in an exclusive interview with Eyewitness News Sunday afternoon.

"Jonathan, I miss you, honey. I want you to be... I want my son back," Nguyen said.

MORE: Family of youngest OC jail escapee cries out for inmate to turn himself in

Hossein Nayeri, 37, had been held without bond since September 2014 on charges of kidnapping, torture, aggravated mayhem and burglary. Nayeri and three other men are accused of kidnapping a marijuana dispensary owner in 2012.

They drove the dispensary owner to a desert spot where they believed he had hidden money and then cut off his penis, authorities said.

After the crime, Nayeri fled the U.S. to his native Iran, where he remained for several months. He was arrested in Prague in November 2014 while changing flights from Iran to Spain to visit family.

The third escaped inmate, 43-year-old Bac Duong, was being held without bond since last month on charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, shooting at an inhabited dwelling, being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm and other charges. Authorities say Duong is also associated with a Vietnamese gang.

Authorities say it's possible one, two or even all three of the suspects could be imbedded by a gang within the Vietnamese community. Sheriff's officials said 30 search warrants have been executed in the investigation of the escape.

PHOTOS: Evidence connected to inmates' escape from OC jail

The three inmates were last seen at 5 a.m. Friday at the Orange County Central Men's Jail. Hallock said the inmates cut through metal, crawled through plumbing tunnels, climbed a roof and rappelled down four stories to freedom using ropes made from bedsheets.

The escape wasn't noticed for 16 hours, until a nighttime head count that had been delayed about an hour because of a fight involving other inmates who might have been part of the escape plan.

"What I can assure you is that the compromises in security have been shored up," Hallock said.

Surveillance footage of escaped inmates accessing unsecured area of CMJ's roof

The FBI and U.S. Marshals Service is offering a combined reward of $50,000 for information leading to their arrests. Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said there's no indication any of them have left the country.

Anyone with information on their whereabouts was urged to call the Orange County Sheriff's Department hotline at (714)628-7085. Those wishing to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at (855) 847-6227.

City News Service and The Associated Press contributed to this report
Related Topics:
newsescaped prisonerinmatesprisonmurderattempted murderkidnappingSanta AnaOrange County
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