Vietnamese gangsters may be hiding California jail escapees
US authorities are hunting for three California prisoners, including a man charged with murder, who staged a brazen jailbreak that reportedly involved rappelling from the roof of a maximum-security facility using bed sheets (AFP Photo/John Moore)

Three prisoners who busted out of a high-security California jail using bed sheets to rappel from a roof are dangerous, likely armed and possibly being hidden by local Vietnamese gang members, law enforcement officials said Monday.

The trio, one of whom is a Vietnamese gang member charged with murder, went missing from the Orange County Men's Central Jail in Santa Ana in southern California on Friday, sparking an intense manhunt.

"There's obviously ties, based on the fact that one of the individuals is a documented Vietnamese gang member," Orange County Sheriff's Lieutenant Jeff Hallock told a news conference.

"We think it's a strong possibility that he may have connected with those fellow gang members in the Vietnamese community," he added, referring to Jonathan Tieu, 20, who is behind bars on a murder charge.

Tieu, Hossein Nayeri, 37, and 43-year-old Bac Duong escaped shortly after an inmate head count, but authorities didn't realize they had gone missing until later Friday evening.

The three prisoners had apparently accessed the jail's plumbing system, used tools to cut through metal bars and made a makeshift rope using bed sheets to rappel from the facility's roof, officials said.

Authorities are not sure how the men procured the tools needed to cut bars without making any noise. It is also unclear if other inmates had assisted them.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has offered a reward of $20,000 and the sheriff's department has also offered $30,000 -- $10,000 for each fugitive.

Duong is charged with attempted murder and Nayeri with kidnapping and torture.

Dave Sawyer, also of Orange County Sheriff's Office, told the Los Angeles Times that Nayeri had been charged in a 2012 plot to attack a medical marijuana dispensary owner.

Nayeri had allegedly driven the victim into the desert and set him on fire, then poured bleach on him and chopped off his penis before leaving him for dead.

Nayeri fled to his native Iran before his eventual arrest in Prague in 2014, the Times reported.

The Central Men's Jail in downtown Santa Ana comprises three buildings containing 900 inmates. There have been two previous jail breaks, the last one in 1989.