The search for three “very dangerous” men who broke out of a Southern California prison Friday continues.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department initially advertised a $50,000 reward for information on inmates Hossein Nayeri, Jonathan Tieu and Bac Duong. As of Tuesday afternoon, the reward has been raised to $200,000.
— OC Sheriff, CA (@OCSD) January 26, 2016
According to the Orange County Register, a prosecutor involved in the case against Nayeri said Friday, “Oh, my God, they let Hannibal Lecter out.”
Nayeri, 37, is a former Marine who escaped to his native Iran in 2012 and is facing charges for kidnapping, torture, aggravated mayhem and burglary. Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown described him to the Register as “sophisticated, incredibly violent and cunning.”
Brown explained that after Nayeri, who grew up in central California, helped kidnap a marijuana dealer in 2012, he burned the man with a blow torch and forced another suspect to castrate the dealer because he thought the man had buried money in the desert. It was soon after this that investigators said he left for Iran, but he was caught while on his way to visit family in Spain.
“It’s mind-boggling that he was housed in a dorm with such low-level security,” the prosecutor said.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas voiced his disapproval of comments like those made by Brown.
”Recently, statements were made by an OCDA prosecutor that were inappropriate, uninformed, and rash,” he told Fox News. “Those statements were not authorized by me or anyone from the OCDA. Those statements do not reflect the position of the OCDA.”
But Brown suggested that given Nayeri’s brutal past, his two escape partners, Duong and Tieu, might be in danger.
“They’re liabilities,” she told the Register. “I guarantee he doesn’t trust them. He’s desperate. He’ll do whatever it takes to not be in jail.”
The three detainees apparently cut through a steel grate, half-inch steel bars and plumbing tunnels early Friday before reaching an unsecured part of the jail’s roof and using makeshift ropes to rappel several floors to the ground, according to WTTV-TV.
— OC Sheriff, CA (@OCSD) January 24, 2016
The inmates were last seen and accounted for Friday during a 5 a.m. prisoner count at the Men’s Central Jail in Santa Ana, according to the Los Angeles Times. If this is the case, the men had a head start of up to 16 hours before officials realized they were missing.
On Monday, Brown told the Register that she is worried that Nayeri has already left the country.
“If I was him, I’d be in Mexico drinking margaritas right now,” she said.
Orange County Lt. Jeff Hallock held a media briefing at 2 p.m. local time Tuesday. He confirmed that the search, which involves federal and local agencies, including the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, the FBI, the U.S. Martial’s Office and others, remains active.
According to Hallock, the Men’s Central Jail facility conducts five prisoner counts a day, but only two of those five are physical body counts. The other three are “statistical counts,” which require only that the deputy on duty “count the inmates in the area and compare them to a paper record.”
Hallock said, “The preliminary investigation into the escape and how it occurred has caused the sheriff concern as to some of the inmate count practices and how they were conducted.”
The facility where all three men escaped from houses 68 prisoners, 50 percent of whom are violent offenders.
“The sheriff is extremely troubled by the length of time it took to determine that the three inmates, housed in a maximum security jail, were unaccounted for,” he said.
Hallock mentioned that prior to Friday’s escape, the most recent escapes from the Men’s Central Prison were in 1986 and 1988.