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5 arrested in search for escaped California inmates

The exterior of Central Men's Jail in Santa Ana, Calif., is seen Monday, Jan. 25, 2016.

AP

LOS ANGELES -- The investigation of a daring California jail break has led to the arrests of five people, with more expected soon, but the three inmates who escaped remain at large, the Orange County sheriff said Wednesday.

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said she definitely believes the inmates had assistance from the outside, and that the investigation is focusing on a local Vietnamese gang.

"They had to have had help," Hutchens said.

Those in custody -- none of whom are jail employees or insiders -- may not all have had direct ties to the escape, but the investigation of the breakout led to their arrest, sheriff's spokesman Lt. Jeff Hallock said.

Hutchens would only say those who were arrested had "some connection" to the inmates, adding that providing more information might tip off the inmates to details of the search. The department is still investigating whether the men had help on the inside, she said.

The men would have needed powerful cutting tools that would not have been available to them inside to get through thick metal, and investigators are looking into how they could have obtained them, Hutchens said.

"We don't know what they are, but we know that they made a clean cut," Hutchens said of the tools the men used. "It's nothing we think could have occurred with a jail-made shank."

The jail has revised its headcount procedures because it took so long to discover the men were missing. The changes include requiring deputies to call and confirm that inmates who are in court, getting medical help or otherwise out of the jail are actually where they are supposed to be.

The men escaped Friday from the jail after cutting a hole in a metal grate then crawling through plumbing tunnels and onto the roof. They pushed aside barbed wire and rappelled down using a rope made of bed sheets.

"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."

Jonathan Tieu, Bac Duong and Hossein Nayeri had all been awaiting trial for unrelated violent crimes.

escaped-inmates-copy.jpg

On January 22, 2016, 43-year-old Tien Duong, 37-year-old Hossein Nayeri and 20-year-old Jonathan Tieu broke out of a Southern California jail.

Orange County Sheriff's Department/CBS Los Angeles

Sheriff Hutchens told reporters that she believes Nayeri, who is suspected of torture and kidnapping, was the mastermind, planning for weeks or possibly months how to cut through steel and mental bars, CBS Los Angeles reported.

The search, however, has centered on a Vietnamese gang based in nearby Westminster and Garden Grove, where the other two inmates have ties.

The sheriff appeared on television and radio shows in Orange County's Little Saigon early in the day to ask for help from the community.

Tieu is a 20-year-old who is accused of murder and attempted murder. Court documents obtained by 48 Hours' Crimesider allege that Tieu is in a gang known as "TRG," or "Tiny Rascal Gang." Prosecutors say he shot and killed one man, and injured a juvenile, after a March 2011 fight that involved several gangs. More than 10 people were arrested in raids following the murder. Tieu was being held on $1 million bond in the case.

Duong, 43, is accused of shooting and badly injuring a man in November 2015. He was being held without bond since last month on charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, shooting at an inhabited dwelling and being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm. Duong is also believed to be associated with a gang, Hallock said.

Hossein Nayeri, 37, had been held without bond since September 2014 on charges of kidnapping, torture, aggravated mayhem and burglary. Nayeri and three other men are accused of kidnapping a California marijuana dispensary owner in 2012. They allegedly drove the dispensary owner to a desert spot where they believed he had hidden money and then tortured him using fire and bleach, before cutting off his penis, authorities said.

The man was allegedly left for dead in the desert, but survived.

Police say Nayeri fled the U.S. to his native Iran, where he remained for several months. But in 2014, investigatory say they used a ruse to get Nayeri to the Czech Republic, which has a strong extradition relationship with the U.S. He was arrested in Prague as he was changing flights from Iran to Spain to visit family.