2 searches in Westminster conducted in connection to search for 3 escaped inmates

ByJohn Gregory and ABC7.com staff KABC logo
Friday, January 29, 2016
2 searches in Westminster conducted amid search for escaped inmates
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Two searches were conducted in Westminster overnight as part of the search for the 2 searches in Westminster conducted in connection to search for 3 escaped inmates, sheriff's officials said.

WESTMINSTER, Calif. (KABC) -- Two searches were conducted in Westminster overnight as part of the search for the 2 searches in Westminster conducted in connection to search for 3 escaped inmates, sheriff's officials said.

According to Lt. Jeff Hallock with the Orange County Sheriff's Department, both searches took place Thursday night - one was at a residence and the other was at a warehouse facility.

"At the residential location, several people were detained and eventually released," said Hallock, who added that no arrests were made.

Hallock did not provide any further details about the searches, but he did say numerous search warrants have been conducted throughout the course of the manhunt for the three escaped inmates, Jonathan Tieu, 20, Bac Duong, 43, and Hossein Nayeri, 37.

Hossein Nayeri, 37 (L), Jonathan Tieu, 20 (C), and Bac Duong, 43 (R), are shown in undated mugshots provided by the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

Hallock also provided details about 44-year-old Nooshafarin Ravaghi, who was arrested on Thursday in connection to the escape.

Ravaghi is currently employed by the Rancho Santiago Community College District as an English as a Second Language teacher, officials said. She worked as an ESL teacher for multiple jails since July 2014.

Booking photo of Nooshafarin Ravaghi
The Orange County Sheriff's Department released the booking photo of Nooshafarin Ravaghi, who was arrested on suspicion of helping inmates escape from the O.C. Central Men's Jail.
Orange County Sheriff's Department

Hallock said Ravaghi was booked at the sheriff's department on suspicion of being an accessory to a felony. She was not currently eligible for bail and was scheduled to be arraigned in court on Monday. A judge will determine the bail amount at a bail hearing. Hallock said investigators will be recommending a bail of $500,000.

Authorities believe Ravaghi directly contributed to the escape of the inmates by providing planning tools, such as a Google Earth image of the jail, which helped the trio.

Hallock said one of the escapees, Nayeri, attended several of Ravaghi's classes. Authorities are investigating the extent of their relationship. Officials said the two exchanged handwritten letters. Both were born in Iran.

There are strict rules against inmates and jail workers not being in contact in such a fashion. How they managed to communicate undetected is under investigation.

Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens has said she believes Hayeri was the mastermind behind the escape plan.

Authorities said the other two, Duong and Tieu, have known connections to an Asian gang. Hallock said on Friday that throughout the investigation, officials found there is a Vietnamese organized crime element, though he did not elaborate.

Hutchens said she's spending time in Little Saigon, reaching out to the Vietnamese community. Investigators have said that they've been focusing on a Vietnamese gang that operates out of Garden Grove and Westminster.

Neighbor of woman suspected of helping OC inmates escape speaks out

The three inmates broke out of prison last Friday using an elaborate plan that involved cutting through steel bars and plumbing tunnels, and rappelling down the jail's roof using bed sheets tied together.

Authorities said Ravaghi has denied supplying the tools used by the inmates to cut through security the bars.

MORE: Eyewitness News gets exclusive look at inmates' elaborate escape route

Authorities said Duong was last spotted on Saturday in the south end of Los Angeles and stole a 2008 white GMC Savana utility car that was for sale.

A private owner advertised the vehicle and Duong had responded to it, authorities said. He test drove the van, came back and at some point took off with it, OCSD Lt. Jeff Hallock said.

The license plate on the van is 8U66466, but Hallock said the plates may have been removed and replaced with yellow or green Felix Chevrolet paper plates.

Hallock said there's a possibility that a license plate might have been taken off from another vehicle and place on the van.

Authorities believe the three suspects are still together and may be living in the van.

"Investigators still feel very strongly that the van as well as the three escapees are still in the Southern California area," Hallock said.

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