Nooshafarin Ravaghi, 44, of Lake Forest, is suspected of directly contributing to the escape of the inmates and providing planning tools, such as Google Earth images of the facility, which helped the three men flee. She was arrested Thursday afternoon by the Orange County Sheriff's Department.
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Ravaghi is currently employed by the Rancho Santiago Community College District as a part-time ESL teacher, the school system said in a statement.
She began working at the OC jail in July 2015, and authorities believe she developed a close relationship with one of the escapees, Hossein Nayeri. Nayeri attended several of her classes at the jail, according to authorities. The extent of their relationship was being investigated by the sheriff's department.
Ravaghi has authored a multicultural children's book called the "Noosh Collection," according to her website. She also holds two master's degrees, one in French literature and the other in education.
A neighbor, who only went by the name "James," told Eyewitness News that Ravaghi had told him she was from Tehran, Iran. He said she lived in a Mission Viejo condominium for 10 years before moving to Lake Forest a year ago.
Neighbor of woman suspected of helping OC inmates escape speaks out
James added that he could not understand how Ravaghi could get herself entangled in such a crime and he was not aware she worked at the jail.
She had worked for the college district since fall 2014 and had undergone a background check conducted by the OCSD before her assignment began, the school's statement said.
Yama Raawe, one of Ravaghi's ESL students at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, said she couldn't believe the news either.
"She is very charming, very nice. I'm very surprised," Raawe said.
The three inmates - Nayier, Jonathan Tieu and Bac Duong - escaped from the jail on Jan. 22 by using professional tools to cut through half-inch-thick steel bars and plumbing tunnels that eventually led to the roof. The men then cut through barbed wire and rappelled down the building using makeshift ropes and bedsheets.