SANTA ANA, Calif. (FOX 11 / CNS) - The Orange County Board of Supervisors doled out $150,000 in reward money today to four tipsters who helped investigators track down three escaped jail inmates, with the bulk of the money going to a San Francisco homeless man.
Matthew Charles Hay-Chapman was awarded $100,000 for calling San Francisco police on Jan. 30 when he saw a white van that looked like the one authorities said the inmates had stolen for transportation. Hay-Chapman saw
escapee Hossein Nayeri emerge from the van and walk into a McDonald's, county officials said.
As officers arrived at the restaurant, Nayeri was trying to get away and Hay-Chapman pointed where the suspect was headed, officials said.
Officers quickly caught Nayeri and then found another of the escapees, Jonathan Tieu, in the van, officials said.
The supervisors awarded $15,000 apiece to Target employees Hazel Javier and Jeffrey Arana.
On Jan. 22, the evening after the escape, Javier, the Rosemead store manager, saw two customers acting suspiciously, officials said. The next day, she reviewed store surveillance video with security guard Arana, who saw media reports about the escape and suspected the three men seen in the footage were Nayeri, Tieu and Bac Duong, officials said.
Javier and Arana called sheriff's investigators and gave them a receipt for two pre-paid cellphones the suspects had bought, officials said. That allowed investigators to gain access to phone records that helped them track
the whereabouts of the escapees, officials said.
Those phone records led investigators to Armando Damien, who had listed his van for sale on Craigslist, officials said. Duong responded to the ad, took the van for a test drive and never came back, authorities have said.
Supervisor Shawn Nelson voted against giving Damien any reward money, arguing that his information did not lead investigators to the suspects. County officials, however, wrote in a staff report that Damien provided photos of the van that were widely publicly circulated and ultimately led Hay-Chapman to call police in San Francisco.
The Board of Supervisors declined to give any of the reward money to Long Ma, a cab driver who was kidnapped by the trio and forced to drive them to Northern California.
Duong, 43, Nayeri, 37, and Tieu, 20, escaped sometime between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. Jan. 22, according to the sheriff's department.
Sheriff's officials said the men cut through a steel grate, half-inch steel bars and plumbing tunnels before making their way to an unsecured part of the jail's roof and using makeshift ropes to rappel several floors to the