U.S. officials have arrested five people in connection with a daring California prison break in which three maximum-security inmates escaped and remain at large. More arrests are expected.
Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said she 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 late Wednesday.
The three inmates rappelled off a roof using knotted bed sheets when they fled the Orange County Men's Central Jail in Santa Ana on January 22.
The suspects "have some connection to the individuals who have escaped," Hutchens said.
Police say one of the fugitives, 20-year-old Jonathan Tieu, who was serving a murder sentence, was a member of a Vietnamese gang.
The other men who fled were identified as Hossein Nayeri, 37, who was serving time for kidnapping and torture and 43-year-old Bac Duong, convicted of attempted murder.
Police believe the men are dangerous, likely armed and possibly being hidden by Vietnamese accomplices.
Nayeri was probably the mastermind of the escape, Hutchens said, adding the inmate's sophistication, military past and history of fleeing from law enforcement have investigators focusing on his role.
A former U.S. Marine with special operations training and a history of mental illness, Nayeri was born in Iran but brought up by siblings in Fresno, California, The Orange County Register reported.
More than 250 law enforcement officials from local, state and federal agencies are engaged in the search, the paper said.