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Man Convicted of Escaping from OC Jail, Kidnapping Cab Driver

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An Orange County Central Men’s Jail inmate Bac Tien Duong was convicted earlier this month of one felony count of escape by a prisoner and one felony count of kidnapping following an attempted escape in 2016.

Duong and two accomplices, Hossein Nayeri and Jonathan Tieu, escaped from the Men’s Central Jail in Santa Ana and kidnapped a 72-year-old cab driver Long Ma to aid in their getaway. Nayeri and Tieu are still awaiting trial.

Duong, Nayeri and Tieu are accused of cutting through jail vents to access the jail’s plumbing tunnels and make their way onto the roof, where they allegedly rappelled down using sheets on Jan. 22, 2016. The men also reportedly used smuggled cellphones to communicate with co-conspirators outside of the jail.  

The escapees traveled throughout California for a few days and split in San Jose. As officials were conducting a state-wide manhunt, Duong and Ma traveled to Santa Ana where Duong turned himself in at an auto shop on Jan. 29, 2016. The next day, Nayeri and Tieu were captured in San Francisco after being recognized from media reports by a civilian, Matthew Hay-Chapman, who was awarded $100,000 by then-OC Supervisor Todd Spitzer for aiding in their capture. 

Duong was tried for one felony count of unlawful taking of a vehicle on April 7, which concluded in an even 6-6 split among jurors and was declared a mistrial. The charge will be revisited by attorneys on May 14 when Duong is sentenced.

Duong was found guilty of kidnapping on April 8 but acquitted of felony kidnapping.

At Duong’s trial, OC Public Defender’s Office Attorney Abby Taylor argued her client did not know of a plan to kidnap Ma and was acting under duress from threats by Nayeri.

“The case is about where fear and fact collide,” Taylor said in defense of Duong.

Deputy District Attorney of Special Prosecutions Jake Jondle, the case prosecutor, claimed that Duong was aware of what he was doing and should be charged for kidnapping along with his escape. 

“Whether you think he’s a direct perpetrator … or an aider and abetter … he is guilty of kidnapping for robbery,” Jondle said of Duong. “He teamed up with Nayeri and Tieu. He knew what he was getting into. He wants to make you believe he wanted no part of this.”

Duong’s trial is still pending on charges from prior to his escape, including attempted murder, assault with a firearm, first-degree burglary and discharging a firearm at an inhabited dwelling.

Nayeri was sentenced in October 2020 to two consecutive life terms and seven years to life for kidnapping and torturing the owner of a marijuana dispensary in 2012. 

“He [Duong] knew what Nayeri was about, and he knew what Tieu was about, and he joined with them,” Jondle said. “He does nothing a reasonable, ordinary person would do. Nothing.”

Co-defendants Nayeri and Tieu are awaiting trial as of April 19, while Duong’s sentencing will take place May 14.

Duong is slated to face up to eight years and eight months in state prison. 

Eva Cluff is a Staff Writer for the spring 2021 quarter. She can be reached at ecluff@uci.edu.