SANTA ANA (FOX 11 / CNS) - An English teacher who was arrested for allegedly helping three inmates escape from the Central Men's Jail in Santa Ana will be freed Monday, with District Attorney Tony Rackauckas saying there's insufficient evidence to charge her with a crime.
Nooshafarin Ravaghi, 44, of Lake Forest, was arrested Thursday for allegedly providing materials such as Google Earth aerial maps of the jail complex to one of the inmates -- Hossein Nayeri, 37, of Newport Beach. Nayeri took English-as-a-second-language classes from Ravaghi at the jail, and sheriff's officials said he developed a close relationship with the teacher.
Nayeri, Jonathan Tieu, 20, of Fountain Valley, and Bac Duong, 43, of Santa Ana, escaped from the jail Jan. 22. Duong surrendered Friday in Santa Ana, while Nayeri and Tieu were arrested Saturday morning in San Francisco.
Rackauckas said Ravaghi will be released on her own recognizance, although authorities plan to hold her passport to ensure she does not leave the country.
"She's being cooperative,'' Rackauckas said. "She has every reason to stay.''
The district attorney said, however, that another man -- Loc Ba Nguyen -- is expected to be charged with assisting the escape by smuggling tools and other materials used in the escape into the jail. His relationship with the inmates wasn't immediately clear. Rackauckas said he was not an inmate or employee of the jail.
The three escapees appeared in court today, but their arraignments on additional charges related to their escape were rescheduled for March 4. They are all now housed in single-inmate cells for inmates considered high-flight risks, and they will have to wear leg chains when being taken out of the jail, Orange County sheriff's Capt. Jeff Hallock said.
Ravaghi works for the Rancho Santiago Community College District and had been teaching English-as-a-second-language classes at the jail since July 2014, according to the sheriff's department.
She is also an associate faculty member at Saddleback College, according to the Mission Viejo college's website, and has her own website, noosharavaghi.com.
Nayeri and Tieu were returned from San Francisco to Santa Ana about 1 a.m. Sunday, according to Orange County sheriff's Capt. Jeff Hallock. Police arrested the two Saturday morning after being tipped off by someone who spotted a white van they were using in the parking lot of a Whole Foods Market.
The white van, which authorities say was stolen in South Los Angeles a day after the escape from someone who had placed a Craigslist ad offering the vehicle for sale, was spotted about 8:50 a.m. Saturday in the parking lot at 690 Stanyan St. in San Francisco's famed Haight-Ashbury district, Orange County Sheriffs Sandra Hutchens said.
Officers from the San Francisco Police Department's Park District station were on an unrelated medical aid call in the area when a man approached the officers and pointed out a white van in the parking lot.
"Officers approached the van as Hossein Nayeri fled the area on foot,'' Hutchens said. "A short foot pursuit ensued before Nayeri was taken into custody.''
Officers immediately returned to the white van, Hutchens said, and discovered Tieu hiding inside. Officers then confirmed that the vehicle was the same white GMC Savana van stolen last week, she said. Hutchens said "a number'' of .380 ammunition rounds were found inside the van, but no weapon was recovered.
Duong was arrested Friday in the 1400 block of North Harbor Boulevard.
He walked into a business called Auto Electric Rebuilders, which is owned by an acquaintance of Duong, and said he wanted to surrender. The business owner's wife called 911, and sheriff's deputies responded and arrested Duong.
Duong is believed to have taken the white GMC Savana van for a test drive, then stolen it. Investigators had said they believed the three escapees were living out of the vehicle while on the lam. Hallock said all three escapees were spotted Thursday in San Jose, but Duong somehow made his way back to Santa Ana to surrender.
Increased police operations against Vietnamese gangs were reported before Duong's arrest, leading to the widespread belief that his own gang associates pressured him into surrendering.
Hallock said Thursday that around 10 people had been arrested since the escape Jan. 22. Several other arrests -- for unrelated warrants or probation issues -- also took place during the manhunt.
The three inmates disappeared after a 5 a.m. body count in the jail, but they were not discovered missing until close to 9 p.m., when the second daily body count was conducted. Nayeri had been in custody since September 2014, Tieu since October 2013 and Duong since December.
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