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A criminal mastermind serving a life sentence for a gruesome crime was found guilty of a daring and elaborate escape. With two other inmates, he climbed through the prison’s plumbing pipes to the roof before rappelling five storeys with a rope fashioned out of bedsheets. Although he was found guilty of escaping, he was acquitted of kidnapping a taxi driver while on the run.

Jurors in Orange County, California found Hossein Nayeri, 44, guilty of escaping from prison and stealing a van but acquitted him on counts of kidnapping and other, lesser charges.

On January 22, 2016, Nayeri and two other men broke out of the Orange County Central Jail Complex in Santa Ana, resulting in a weeklong manhunt for the three escapees.

The inmates used smuggled tools to cut through a metal grate in their maximum-security cell before climbing through plumbing shafts within the walls to reach the roof.

They then rappelled down five stories using a rope made of bed linens, according to authorities and a cell phone video shot by Nayeri.

The men allegedly kidnapped a 72-year-old unlicensed taxi driver who was sometimes held at gunpoint before stealing a van and taking both cars – and the taxi driver – hundreds of miles north to the San Francisco Bay Area, according to the authorities.

One of the escapees, Bac Tien Duong, feared that the taxi driver would be killed and fled with him back to Southern California.

Nayeri and Jonathan Tieu were arrested the next day in San Francisco after a man recognised them, prosecutors said. Duong was convicted of the escape and kidnapping in 2021, prosecutors said, while Tieu was still awaiting trial.

At the time of his escape, Nayeri was awaiting trial on charges that he and two of his friends kidnapped, tortured and mutilated a marijuana dispensary owner as they falsely believed he had $1 million buried in the Mojave desert.

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The victim was beaten with a rubber pipe, shocked with a taser and burned with a blowtorch before having his penis cut off, prosecutors said.

Nayeri fled the US for Iran. However, he was later caught in the Czech Republic and extradited back to the States.

In 2020, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. The two other co-defendants were also convicted.

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