One of the California inmates who escaped jail over the weekend has a long history of evading justice and fled the state at least twice—most recently after he allegedly kidnapped a marijuana merchant and cut off his penis.
Hossein Nayeri first took off after killing someone in December 2005. The Fresno man was driving drunk when he crashed a vehicle belonging to Ehsan Tousi, a 26-year-old acquaintance who died in the accident, court records show.
After Nayeri posted bail, he disappeared until authorities nabbed him in Washington, D.C., three years later, Tousi’s relatives say.
This could not be confirmed by authorities Sunday, but court records show Nayeri failed to appear on a felony charge in 2007.
Then, in 2012, Nayeri fled to his native Iran, prosecutors said, after he allegedly kidnapped a Newport Beach pot dispensary owner and tortured him with a blowtorch.
Now the 37-year-old is on the lam again, and relatives of his first victim tell The Daily Beast they fear he’ll take another life.
Tousi’s brother, Ali Tousi, said that seeing Nayeri’s name resurface is opening wounds that never fully healed for friends and family.
“It’s been 10 years since my brother passed,” Ali Tousi, 41, told The Daily Beast on Sunday, the second day of the Orange County dragnet. “Now he’s popping up again.
“We’re haunted by this every day,” he added. “I lost my brother. There’s nothing that’s ever going to be done to this guy… that is going to be sufficient enough for what we’ve lost.”
Still, Ali Tousi said he blames Nayeri’s getaways on the judicial system.
Nayeri was sentenced to about a year in jail—and four years probation—for the deadly DUI, the Tousi family’s attorney told The Daily Beast. He was out on probation when he allegedly took the marijuana seller prisoner, prosecutors claim.
“Most of it I blame on our system,” Tousi said. “This guy should have been locked up and should have done time, and he never did.
“Who do you know that has fled from a jail and gone through tunnels? The only guy I know is El Chapo. Wherever [Nayeri] is at right now, he’s a threat to the public,” he added.
Sometime Friday, Nayeri and two fellow prisoners broke out of a maximum-security jail in Santa Ana, California—sparking a manhunt for the “dangerous” fugitives accused of violent crimes including murder and attempted murder. Nayeri was locked up, without bail, and awaiting trial for the cannabis dealer kidnapping.
“While our focus right now is to obviously apprehend these individuals, we are also beginning an investigation as to how this occurred,” Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens told reporters at a news conference Sunday.
Hutchens described the jailbreak as a “very sophisticated operation,” and said the inmates whisked past security points with the help of “tools that allowed them to do that.”
The trio cut through half-inch steel bars and accessed a plumbing tunnel before reaching the jailhouse roof. Then they rappelled down four stories to their escape using a rope made of bed sheets, authorities say.
County jailers didn’t realize Nayeri and the other two escapees—Bac Tien Duong, 43, and Jonathan Tieu, 20—were gone until a 9 p.m. headcount.
The jailbirds lived in a housing tank shared with 65 other inmates but it’s unclear how they were connected, The Orange County Register reported.
Hutchens conceded that the security breach was likely caused by the jail’s “older” and “linear” design, which has staff moving prisoners throughout the 1960s-era facility for medical treatment, exercise, and other services.
“People in jail have a lot of time to sit around and think about ways to defeat our systems,” Hutchens said, “and, again, we’re handicapped [because] this is a jail where a lot of movement occurs.”
Authorities say they’re chasing tips, but there have been no reported sightings of the men. It’s unknown if the men had outside help or help from fellow inmates.
The U.S. Marshals Service is offering $30,000 for information leading to their capture, while the FBI posted a $20,000 reward.
Tieu is facing charges of murder, attempted murder, and street terrorism for alleged gang activity. He was arrested in October 2013 and held on $1 million bail. He has pleaded not guilty, The O.C. Register reported.
Meanwhile, Duong was arrested last month on a slew of charges including attempted murder, burglary, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He pleaded not guilty and was held without bail because of an immigration hold.
Indeed, the most is known about Nayeri, whose 2013 arrest in Prague by the FBI and Czech authorities made international headlines. He was extradited to the U.S. a year later and held without bond.
Nayeri, who grew up in Fresno, was one of four people charged with kidnapping the pot dispensary owner and torturing him with a blowtorch in the Mojave Desert, where the crooks mistakenly believed he had buried cash.
The despicable foursome faces an array of charges including torture, kidnapping for ransom, and aggravated mayhem, and they could be sentenced to life in prison without parole if convicted, prosecutors said.
The victim, who was not named by police, is the well-off proprietor of a medical marijuana dispensary. In fall of 2012, he treated his weed suppliers to a weekend in Las Vegas—an act of kindness that may have led to his kidnapping and mutilation.
One of the lucky growers who joined him in Vegas was Kyle Shirakawa Handley, who would later be charged with severing the victim’s penis and leaving him for dead.
After the excursion, Handley told high school pals—including Nayeri—that the marijuana seller was extremely rich, and they hatched a plan to kidnap and rob him, prosecutors in Orange County said.
For weeks, Handley and his accomplices allegedly trailed the dispensary owner on frequent trips to the desert, where they erroneously believed he was burying large amounts of cash. Instead, the victim was traveling to discuss an investment deal.
On Oct. 2, 2012, Handley, Nayeri, and their friend Ryan Kevorkian allegedly kidnapped the man from his Newport Beach home and seized a hefty amount of cash. They also snatched the man’s roommate’s girlfriend, who happened to be at the residence, police said.
The alleged kidnappers then zip-tied the victims and drove them in a van to the desert. On the way there, they burned the dispensary owner with a blowtorch, authorities said.
Once they arrived to the desert, their abuse turned more deadly. The psychotic trio allegedly severed the man’s penis, then poured bleach on him to destroy DNA evidence. The kidnappers then dumped their victims on the side of the road, authorities said.
But before they took off, the sickos grabbed the man’s penis so that it could never be reattached, according to prosecutors. The man spent an extensive recovery in the hospital but survived, authorities said.
The female captor, still bound with zip ties, ran more than a mile in the dark, until she flagged down a police car, cops said.
Newport Beach investigators caught onto the alleged kidnappers after contacting a witness, who had taken down the license plate of a suspicious car parked in the area. That car belonged to Handley, prosecutors said.
According to prosecutors, Nayeri was later linked to the crime through DNA evidence. Police also linked Kevorkian’s wife, Naomi Rhodus, to the crime through DNA, though authorities say she was not present for the kidnapping and torture.
Nayeri, however, was long gone. After the alleged kidnapping, he fled to Iran, where he has family and where he stayed for several months, according to prosecutors.
Since Iran has no extradition agreement with the U.S., investigators used a ruse to get him to the Czech Republic, CBS Los Angeles reported.
While details of the trick are unclear, Nayeri was arrested at a Prague airport in November 2013 while transferring flights from Iran to Spain to visit family.
In September 2014, he was extradited back to Orange County.
Court records show Nayeri faces two counts of kidnapping for ransom/extortion or to commit robbery or sex crime; aggravated mayhem; torture; and burglary in the first degree. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in April 2015.
A pretrial hearing in the case was scheduled for Feb. 2, records show.
Roger Bonakdar, an attorney for the Tousi family, said that had Nayeri received the maximum sentence for his manslaughter charge, he might not have been able to kidnap and maim the medical marijuana vendor.
Bonakdar told The Daily Beast that Nayeri faced up to 10 years behind bars for the drunken-driving incident, but was sentenced to one year in jail.
“Had a different term been imposed when facing charges in Madera County, he probably would have been in custody when he was alleged to have done the things that landed him in the Orange County jail,” Bonakdar said.
But Nayeri was much younger, and his criminal history was “relatively non-existent,” the attorney said.
“The judge at that time thought it appropriate to give him a more mitigated sentence. That was obviously a letdown to the family [of the victim],” Bonakdar told The Daily Beast.
“It was a very traumatic loss for the family,” he added. “Any time this individual, Hossein Nayeri, comes up, it harkens back to the incident. It brings those feelings of loss back again.”