Jury finds accused ringleader of brazen 2016 Orange County jailbreak guilty

An Orange County Superior Court jury has determined that the accused mastermind of a 2016 jail break in Santa Ana that grabbed national headlines was guilty of the escape and stealing a van but not of kidnapping a taxi driver while on the lam.

The jury deliberated less than a day before telling the judge its verdict on Thursday afternoon, March 16.

Hossein Nayeri, 44, had already publicly admitted to taking part in the break-out from the Central Jail Complex and even recorded the escape on a smuggled-in cellphone. An intense, week-long manhunt ended with Nayeri and his two accused fellow escapees back in custody.

Nayeri is scheduled for sentencing on Friday, March 24.

But the Newport Beach pot grower and one-time international fugitive had already been convicted and sentenced to life in prison for kidnapping and torture for other crimes.

In 2012, Nayeri and two high school friends abducted and brutally tortured a marijuana dispensary owner they believed had buried a non-existent $1 million in the Mojave Desert. The man was beaten with plastic tubing, Tasered and injured with a blowtorch before his penis was cut off and he was left bounded in the desert. A woman taken with him escaped and found a law enforcement officer, perhaps saving their lives.

Nayeri fled to his native Iran but eventually was captured.

In the Orange County jail, Nayeri allegedly teamed up with inmates Bac Tien Duong and Jonathan Tieu and over months cut through half-inch steel bars in order to get to plumbing tunnels. On Jan. 22, 2016, the trio used bedsheets to rappel down five stories to freedom.

Prosecutors say the escapees got ahold of Long Ma, an independent taxi drive who drove them to Rosemead, where he has said they pulled a gun on him. The jailbreakers stole a van in Los Angeles and the four ended up in San Jose.

This week, Nayeri said from the courtroom stand that Ma in fact helped the three escapees stay ahead of the authorities and that he was promised $10,000 for the effort.

“In real time, when everything fell apart, he came through,” Nayeri said of Ma. “I don’t know about all this stuff afterward and all the claims. I don’t want to say anything bad about the guy. It is a tough situation to be in.”

Ma has said that the escapees kidnapped kept him against his will as the four men stayed in hotel rooms in Rosemead and San Jose.

A week after the escape, the three suspects were back in custody and Ma was free.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Related links

O.C. jail escape: What happened during eight days on the run? A fight, a hostage and a trip north
Man behind O.C. jailbreak says initial plan after escape was ‘straight to LAX, fly out of here’
Taxi driver testifies to week of terror, insists he was being held captive by OC jail escapees
Trial begins for alleged mastermind behind Orange County jailbreak
A minute-by-minute account of the three inmates’ O.C. jail escape

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