Homeless Man To Receive $100,000 Reward For Helping Capture Orange County Jail Escapees

A homeless man who describes himself as a “news junkie” will receive the lion’s share of a reward that led to the capture of three dangerous men who escaped from an Orange County jail earlier this year, the Los Angeles Times is reporting.

Matthew Hay-Chapman, 28, was near a San Francisco Whole Foods Market on January 28 when he spotted two men, Hossein Nayeri and Jonathan Tieu, exiting a stolen van. The homeless man recognized both the van and the men exiting it from having seen it on the news. He found a cop and led him to the van. Nayeri tried to run but the police officer captured him and tackled him. Tieu was captured hiding in the van.

Nayeri, Tieu, and a third escapee, Bac Duong, escaped from an Orange County Jail.

The escape was an embarrassment for the jail, thanks in part to several oversights and failures on the part of jailers, according to Southern California Public Radio.

  • The three escapees, all violent felons, were housed in a dormitory-style setting where they slept in bunks, moved about at will, and interacted with other prisoners, including non-violent ones.
  • The escapees were estimated to have been gone for at least 16 hours before anyone even realized they were missing, thanks to scheduled counts of the inmates not being conducted properly.
  • An English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher working inside the jail provided Google Earth maps of the jail and its surroundings to Nayeri, who was taking ESL classes even though he spoke English.
  • Loc Ba Nguyen, a friend of Duong, was allegedly able to smuggle at least one tool and one weapon to Duong. He also allegedly picked the escapees up in his car, two blocks from the jail, the morning of the escape.

During their eight days on the run, according to the Orange County Register, the escapees made their way north, stole a van, stopped at Target to buy cell phones, and visited a hair salon in an attempt to change their appearance. They also abducted a cab driver and subsequently argued over whether or not to kill him — a rift that would ultimately lead to the group’s undoing.

Duong, who did not want to kill the cab driver, fled to Santa Ana with the cabbie while the two other escapees took the stolen van to get its windows tinted. Duong then turned himself in. The remaining two escapees were caught the next day, thanks to Hay-Chapman’s tip.

On Tuesday, the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted on how to divvy up the $150,000 reward they had offered for information that led to the escapees’ capture.

The lion’s share of the reward, $100,000 of it, will go to Hay-Chapman.

The owner of the stolen van, Armando Damian, of Los Angeles, will receive $20,000. Damian had put his van for sale on Craigslist. He reported that “an older man” showed up at his home and asked for a test drive, and then took off.

$15,000 each will go to two employees at the Target store where the escapees bought cell phones. Hazel Javier, a store manager, told police she observed two men “acting suspiciously,” and along with Jeffrey Arana, a loss-prevention officer, the two provided security footage of the escapees to the police.

Interestingly, Long Ma, the cab driver who was taken hostage by the escapees, won’t be getting any of the reward money. The Board said that because Ma didn’t know his abductors were the wanted escapees, he wasn’t able to provide any information leading to their arrest.

As of this writing, it is unclear what the homeless man intends to do with his $100,000 reward.

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