Hossein Nayeri: Felon serving life gets nearly 3 more years for OC jail escape

The man prosecutors call the mastermind of a 2016 escape by three inmates from the Orange County jail in Santa Ana was sentenced Friday to two years and eight months in prison for his conviction on felony counts of escaping custody and car theft.

Hossein Nayeri, 44, is already serving two consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole for his role in the sexual mutilation of a marijuana dispensary owner in kidnapping-extortion scheme.

Nayeri was convicted last week of the escape and car theft charges, but jurors acquitted him of kidnapping during a carjacking and other lesser-included offenses of simple kidnapping, carjacking and false imprisonment.

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer last week defended taking Nayeri to trial in the escape case, even though he's already serving two life-without-parole prison terms. Nayeri was in custody awaiting trial in the kidnap-extortion case when the jail escape occurred.

SANTA ANA, CA - MARCH 14: Hossein Nayeri, who escaped from the Orange County jail in 2016 with two other inmates, is standing trial in Orange County court on charges of breaking out and kidnapping a cab driver while on the run. Nayeri testifies in Or

"This was not a waste of government resources," Spitzer told reporters after the verdicts.

Spitzer said that given recent changes in criminal justice law in the state he fears lawmakers will scrap the term of life without parole.

"I literally have no confidence that the convictions Nayeri has already suffered will necessarily be upheld on appeal or the legislature will not change the laws and retroactively apply them to Nayeri," Spitzer said. "So while this sentence does not add significant additional time to the time he's already serving I want the parole board to be able to consider this additional case."

He added: "Nayeri needed to be convicted of that escape," Spitzer said. "He masterminded it. He was up in those plumbing tunnels for months. He was able to get tools to cut through rebar... Mr. Nayeri, in my personal opinion, is one of America's most dangerous criminals. He is conniving, manipulative and a mastermind. He knows how to get inside people's heads."

Nayeri has technically already served enough time in jail to cover the sentence he was given Friday for the escape case. Orange County Superior Court Judge Larry Yellin on Friday dismissed four pending jailhouse drug cases Nayeri was facing. The defendant had asked to keep those cases pending so he could remain in the Orange County Jail while working on his appeals.

Nayeri's co-defendant in the escape, Bac Tien Duong, 50, was convicted in April 2021 and sentenced to 20 years in prison in July. Duong, who was in custody at the time of the escape in an attempted murder case, resolved that case as well when he was sentenced.

Co-defendant Jonathan Tieu, 27, is awaiting trial in connection with the escape. Tieu was in custody in a murder case, but jurors in his trial deadlocked. A retrial was scheduled, but he was referred to juvenile court, where he was ultimately convicted of assault with a deadly weapon because a change in state law redefined liability in murders and Tieu was not considered a major participant in the gang-related killing.

The trio escaped from Central Men's Jail Jan. 22, 2016, Authorities said that with the help of Loc Ba Nguyen, a longtime friend of Duong's, the three inmates were able to obtain supplies they needed to escape. They sawed through obstacles, wriggled through an air vent in the dormitory-style housing and worked their way through plumbing tunnels to the roof of the jail. They then rappelled down with makeshift ropes, and Nguyen picked them up and drove them to a contact of Duong's in Westminster.

They called unlicensed cab driver Long Ma, who took them first to motels in Rosemead and later San Jose, where Duong and Nayeri got into a fight. Duong decided to part ways and brought Ma back with him to Orange County and surrendered on Jan. 29. The next day, Nayeri and Tieu were arrested in San Francisco.

Nguyen pleaded guilty in June 2017 for his role aiding the inmates in the escape and was sentenced to a year in jail, but he served his time in home confinement because he said he had a stroke on his sentencing date.