A 44-year-old English as a Second Language teacher was taken into custody on Thursday on suspicion of aiding three maximum-security inmates carry out a brazen escape in Southern California.
The Orange County Sheriff's Department believes Nooshafarian Ravaghi, 44, provided information, including Google maps, to the inmates and may have also given them tools to cut through a steel grate and inch-thick metal bars.
Jonathan Tieu, 20, Hossein Nayeri, 37, and Bac Duong, 43 — who were described as armed and dangerous — remain at large, sheriff's Lt. Jeff Hallock said at a news conference. Upwards of 10 people have so far been arrested on suspicion of helping the men, some of whom officials say belong to a Vietnamese-American gang in Orange County.
As of Thursday, new leads have made officials confident the men remain in Southern California and are still together, Hallock said.
"We're extremely encouraged as of today," Hallock said.
The men are believed to be living out of a white GMC van, which was reported stolen on Saturday. A man matching Duong's description responded in south Los Angeles to an online ad to buy the van, then disappeared with it while out on a test drive, Hallock said.
A $200,000 reward has been offered for the capture of the men, who cut through steel bars into plumbing tunnels at the jail to gain access to the roof last week. They then rappelled down five stories using rope improvised from jail linens, authorities said.
It was clear the men received some kind of help in their escape, Hallock said. The investigators now believe some of that help came from Ravaghi, who taught classes attended by Nayeri.
"There was some kind of relationship that developed between the two," Hallock said.
The exact nature of the relationship remained unclear, and Hallock said Ravaghi denied providing the men with tools. She was still being questioned Thursday afternoon.
Nayeri is facing kidnapping and torture charges, according to court documents. In October 2012, prosecutors said he and two other men went into a couple's home and drove them into the desert. Nayeri is accused of torturing the man with a blowtorch, cutting off his penis, and pouring bleach on him.
Tieu is facing murder charges, and Duong is facing a charge of attempted murder.
Claudia Koerner is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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