A $150,000 reward for the capture of two inmates who escaped a Southern California prison in January will be divided among four people, including two Target employees and a homeless man, the Orange County Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday.
Two Rosemead Target employees, a van owner who reported his vehicle stolen and a homeless man from San Francisco will all get a share of the reward. The Target employees, Hazel Javier and Jeffrey Arana, will be awarded $15,000 each, and Armando Damian, the stolen van owner, will receive $20,000.
Matthew Hay-Chapman, a 55-year-old homeless man who recognized escaped inmates Hossein Nayeri and Jonathan Tieu and followed them into a McDonald's, will be awarded the majority of the bounty: $100,000.
Chapman flagged down officers who were on duty on Jan. 30 and reported seeing the two prisoners. Shortly after, San Francisco police were able to find and capture Nayeri, who was wanted on charges of kidnap and torture, after a brief chase. They then tracked down Tieu, who was imprisoned in Santa Ana on murder charges, as he was hiding in the white van nearby.
Chapman told the San Francisco Chronicle on Feb. 2 that he hoped to use the reward money to help his children and his grandchildren, who are in foster care in Oregon.
"I had a duty to help bring these individuals back into custody," Chapman said in a voicemail to Supervisor Todd Spitzer.
The Target employees tipped off police after spotting Nayeri and the third escaped inmate, Bac Duong, buying cellphones at their store in Rosemead. Their information helped investigators track down the cellphone numbers the escapees were using and find Damian, who provided police with additional information.
One man involved in the case, taxi driver Long Ma, was not named as one of the reward recipients. The driver was integral to the capture of the fugitives, his attorney said at the board of supervisors meeting on Tuesday.
Ma was taken hostage by the three inmates and forced to drive all over California.
"In the interest of justice and basic fairness, we ask that the Orange County Board of Supervisors reconsider and ... award Mr. Ma his share of the reward," said his attorney, Hoang Tu. "Not because he is a victim, but because [of] ... the instrumental role he played in the capture of these dangerous fugitives."
Spitzer responded, saying that giving Ma a cash reward would be an unlawful gift of public funds, though he is "morally deserving."
Ma, who has not gone back to work since being taken hostage, intends to fight the board's decision not to allocate him a portion of the reward, Tu said.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story stated that the reward was $200,000. The Board of Supervisors approved a $150,000 reward, and the other $50,000 was offered by the US Marshals Service and the FBI. That portion has not yet been allocated.