1 of 3 inmates who escaped from O.C. jail, kidnapped cab driver convicted

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The Orange County Sheriff’s Department released these photos of Jonathan Tieu, left, Hossein Nayeri, middle, and Bac Duong, right, on Jan. 23, 2016.

One of three Orange County inmates accused of escaping a Santa Ana jail and kidnapping a taxi driver in 2016, has been convicted, officials announced Thursday.

Bac Tien Duong, 48, was convicted by a jury of one felony count each of escape by a prisoner and of kidnapping, the O.C. District Attorney’s Office said in a news release. The jury failed to reach a verdict on one felony count of the taking of a vehicle.

Duong faces a maximum sentence of eight years and eight months in state prison and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 14. He is meanwhile also awaiting trial for the other charges that resulted in his imprisonment in the first place.

Duong is accused of escaping from the Orange County Men’s Central Jail on Jan. 22, 2016, along with inmates Hossein Nayeri and Jonathan Tieu.

The three men carried out a months-long effort to cut through jail vents to access plumbing tunnels and climb onto the building’s roof, officials said. They allegedly used sheets as a makeshift rope to to rappel down the side of the multistory facility.

Later that day, Duong called an unlicensed taxi service that he found in a Vietnamese-language periodical, and 72-year-old Long Ma arrived to drive the three escapees to various points in Orange County and Rosemead, the DA’s office said. Duong allegedly held the cab driver at gunpoint various times as he drove them around.

Meanwhile, the three escaped inmates were the targets of a statewide manhunt that lasted more than a week.

Over the next few days, the three escapees and the abducted cab driver drove to different locations around California and ended up across the state in San Jose, staying at motels.

Ma and Duong drove back to Southern California on Jan. 29, 2016, after Nayeri and Duong had a physical fight over whether the taxi driver should be killed and his body buried.

Duong arranged to turn himself in at a Santa Ana auto shop, where police took him into custody. After dropping him off there, Ma drove away and called the Sheriff’s Department.

The following day, Nayeri and Tieu were captured in San Francisco after a man recognized them from media reports. O.C. officials gave the man, Matthew Hay-Chapman, a $100,000 reward for providing the information that led to their capture.

Nayeri and Tieu are still awaiting trial on the jail escape.

When Duong escaped from jail, he was facing charges for attempted murder with a 25-life gun-use enhancement, assault with a firearm, first-degree burglary, and discharging a firearm at an inhabited dwelling, according to the DA’s office. His trial for those charges is still pending.

Tieu was facing a retrial on murder and attempted murder charges for a 2011 shooting outside an Orange County pool hall.

Nayeri had been sentenced to two consecutive terms of life without the possibility of parole, along with another seven years to life for kidnapping and torturing a marijuana dispensary owner. After the commission of those crimes in October 2012, Nayeri fled to Iran, before traveling to the Czech Republic where he was arrested and extradited to the United States. 

The men used a cell phone camera to film their escape, and the footage was released by an attorney for Nayeri in 2017.

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