Crime & Justice

OC jail break: Alleged getaway driver's arraignment continued

Loc Ba Nguyen allegedly drove the getaway car for three inmates fleeing an Orange County jail in January. He is accused of smuggling weapons into a correctional facility and aiding prisoners escape, among other charges.
Loc Ba Nguyen allegedly drove the getaway car for three inmates fleeing an Orange County jail in January. He is accused of smuggling weapons into a correctional facility and aiding prisoners escape, among other charges.
Orange County Sheriff's Department

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An Orange County man accused of helping three inmates escape from a Santa Ana jail in January was set to be asked to enter a plea on multiple charges in court on Monday, but his arraignment was continued to March 17, according to a spokesperson for the Orange County District Attorney's Office. 

Loc Ba Nguyen is charged with smuggling weapons into the Central Men's Jail and aiding escape, among other charges. He could face more than five years in prison.

Orange County Sheriff's detectives accused Nguyen, 50, of sneaking a knife into the Orange County jail sometime between January 12 and 15.  They also said he picked the three escapees up off of a Santa Ana street soon after they broke out.

Hossein Nayeri, Jonathan Tieu, and Bac Duong cut open a steel grate in the wall inside the dorm and, on January 22, climbed through the facility's plumbing tunnels and on to the roof.

They slid down on bed sheets and into a getaway car allegedly driven by Nguyen.  The escapees were at large for about a week before being caught.

Last week, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens told KPCC internal investigators are still piecing together an explanation of how the inmates managed to plot their escape undetected —and then disappear some 16 hours before their absence was discovered. 

She also responded to criticism from members of the O.C. Board of Supervisors  that the investigation is proceeding too slowly.

“There will be a finality to it, there will be an end to it, but it’s gonna take time," Hutchens said. "I know that’s hard for people, but I want to reassure the public that we have made immediate fixes and we will continue to make enhancements but we want to make sure we’re being prudent in that.” 

She's scheduled to speak with Orange County supervisors about the investigation in closed session on Tuesday. 

So far, Nguyen is the only person charged in connection with the escape besides the inmates themselves. 

Detectives initially accused multiple suspects of assisting the escapees, but prosecutors declined to charge an ESL teacher accused of providing a map to the inmates, citing insufficient evidence.

Nguyen faces four felony counts, which include two counts of sending an article useful for escape into a prison in addition to the smuggling weapons charge. 

This story has been updated.