Sheriff Sandra Hutchens told reporters Wednesday that detectives are investigating ties to Vietnamese gangs

By Chris Harris
Updated January 28, 2016 02:30 PM
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Credit: Courtesy Orange County Sheriff's Office

brightcove.createExperiences(); The search continues in California for three escaped inmates who busted out of the Orange County Central Men’s Jail on Friday.

During a press conference Wednesday, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens told reporters that more than 200 police personnel remain fully committed to finding 20-year-old Jonathan Tieu, 37-year-old Hossein Nayeri, and 43-year-old Bac Tien Duong.

Police say the three inmates fled the jail after breaching a half-inch steel screen in their holding tank and crawling through plumbing tunnels. They made their way to the roof, from which they rappelled down the side of the building using makeshift rope made from tied-together bed sheets.

Hutchens told reporters on Wednesday that authorities have arrested five individuals as part of their continuing investigation into last week’s escape. The names of those people have not been released.

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Hutchens said that she thinks the escaped inmates received outside assistance in their bid for freedom. Detectives are focusing on whether members a Vietnamese gang aided the breakout. Authorities told PEOPLE that Tieu and Duong are both affiliated with Vietnamese gangs.

“They had to have had help,” Hutchens said.

The five who’ve been arrested since Friday aren’t jail employees, and Hutchens would not say whether they have direct ties to the escape, only revealing they had “some connection” to the three inmates.

Tieu, Duong, and Nayeri were all being held while awaiting trials on charges stemming from unrelated violent crimes.

Tieu had been held on $1 million bond since October 2013 on charges of murder, attempted murder and shooting at an inhabited dwelling.

Nayeri had been held without bond since September 2013 on charges of kidnapping, torture, aggravated mayhem and burglary. Nayeri and three others are accused of kidnapping a California marijuana dispensary owner and driving him to a remote desert spot, where they falsely believed he had hidden money. There, the men allegedly set fire to his body, poured bleach over him and cut his penis off, Lt. Dave Sawyer of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said at a Monday press conference.

Duong had been held without bond since last month on charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and other charges.

“It’s every sheriff’s nightmare,” Hutchens said. “You never want to have an escape from any jail. They do happen. And you certainly don’t want maximum security prisoners who are a danger to the public to get out of your jail. So it’s not a good day.”

A $200,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the capture of he three defendants.