They Thought He Was Hiding Buried Treasure in Nevada Desert, So They Kidnapped and Tortured Him to Find Out Where

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SANTA ANA, Calif. – A one-time fugitive who fled to Iran after kidnapping and torturing a marijuana dispensary owner in a vicious attack that left his victim permanently disfigured was sentenced today to two life sentences in state prison without the possibility of parole. He was also sentenced to a third life sentence with the possibility of parole.

Hossein Nayeri, 41, was convicted in August 2019 of two felony counts of kidnapping for ransom and one felony count of torture. The jury could not reach a verdict on a felony charge of aggravated mayhem and found an enhancement of infliction of great bodily injury was not true.

Nayeri is still facing trial for a brazen 2016 escape from the Orange County Jail. He and two other inmates are accused of orchestrating an escape from the county jail, kidnapping a cab driver, and forcing him to drive them to San Francisco. Nayeri and one of his co-defendants were captured after a homeless man recognized Nayeri from news coverage and alerted police. As an Orange County Supervisor, now District Attorney, Todd Spitzer led the effort to offer a $100,000 reward for the capture of the jail escapees and personally presented the reward to Matthew Hay-Chapman for providing the information that led to their arrests. 

“The devastating depraved heart and extreme intelligence allowed this individual to inflict unimaginable horror on his victims,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. “Despite his best efforts to avoid capture, Orange County law enforcement was relentless in pursuing justice by orchestrating arrest halfway around the world, and then capturing him once again following his escape from the Orange County Jail in 2016. Today, the tortured stood up and confronted his torturer and watched a judge sentence him to two lifetimes behind bars. Today, justice was served.”

Co-defendant Kyle Shirakawa Handley, 41, was convicted in 2018 of two felony counts of kidnapping for ransom, one felony count of aggravated mayhem and one felony count of torture.  He was sentenced to two life sentences in prison without the possibility of parole plus 14 years.

Ryan Anthony Kevorkian, 41, and Naomi Josette Rhodus, formerly Naomi Kevorkian, 40, face the same charges. They both face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

At the time of the kidnapping, victim John Doe owned a lucrative marijuana dispensary business.

Sometime before October 2012, John Doe treated several marijuana growers to Las Vegas for an extravagant and expensive weekend. Handley, who grew and sold marijuana to John Doe, attended the trip.

After the trip to Las Vegas, Handley told his friends Nayeri and Ryan Kevorkian that the victim was extremely wealthy. The defendants are accused of devising a plan to kidnap and rob John Doe.

A month prior to the kidnapping, the defendants are accused of video surveilling the victim’s home and following him as he made frequent trips to the desert. John Doe regularly drove to the desert to discuss a possible investment deal, but the defendants believed that the victim was driving to the desert in order to bury large amounts of cash.

Approximately one week prior to the kidnapping of John and Jane Doe, Nayeri led Newport Beach police officers on a high-speed chase after he refused to pull over for a routine traffic violation.

After crashing his vehicle, Nayeri abandoned the vehicle and fled on foot. Police found surveillance equipment and videos inside of the abandoned vehicle. The vehicle was impounded.

On Oct. 2, 2012, Handley, Nayeri, and Ryan Kevorkian are accused of entering John Doe’s Newport Beach home with the intent to kidnap and rob him. Once inside, they are accused of zip-tying the victim’s wrists, severely beating him and forcing him in a van. They are also accused of zip-tying and kidnapping Jane Doe, who was the girlfriend of John Doe’s roommate. Handley, Nayeri, and Kevorkian are also accused of stealing a large amount of cash from the home.

The defendants are accused of driving the victims to the desert where they believed John Doe was hiding money. They are accused of continuing to torture John Doe throughout the drive by burning him with a blow torch and severely beating him. Once in the desert, the defendants are accused of sexually mutilating the victim by cutting off his penis. They are accused of pouring bleach on the victim in an effort to destroy any DNA evidence and dumping both zip-tied victims on the side of the road. Jane Doe was not physically harmed.

Handley, Nayeri, and Ryan Kevorkian are accused of fleeing the scene and taking the victim’s penis with them so that it could never be reattached.  Jane Doe managed to get her feet free. With her hands still zip-tied behind her back she ran over a mile to a main road in the dark, and flagged down a police car.

John Doe spent an extensive period of time in the hospital recovering from his injuries. 

Investigation and Arrests

As part of its investigation, Newport Beach police canvassed John and Jane Doe’s neighborhood. A neighbor had been suspicious of a car parked outside John Doe’s home on Oct. 2, 2012, and wrote down the license plate. Handley was the registered owner of that car.

Police discovered evidence of the kidnapping and torture inside Handley’s home. Nayeri’s DNA was found on that evidence. DNA from two other unidentified people was also found on the evidence.

After Nayeri was identified as a suspect, Newport Beach connected the video surveillance equipment and footage found in the Nayeri’s vehicle following the high-speed pursuit to the kidnapping and torture.

Ryan Kevorkian and Rhodus were later identified as potential suspects in the kidnapping and torture. Rhodus and Kevorkian were both matched to the unidentified DNA profiles found on the evidence in Handley’s home. Rhodus is accused of participating in the plan to kidnap and torture John Doe.

Ryan Kevorkian and Rhodus were arrested Nov. 8, 2013, in Fresno by Newport Beach detectives.

Extradition

After the kidnapping and torture, Nayeri is accused of fleeing the United States to Iran, where he remained for several months. Iran does not extradite suspects to the United States. On Nov. 7, 2013, Nayeri was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the Prague airport while transferring flights from Iran to Spain to visit family. The defendant faced extradition proceedings in the Czech Republic.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown of the Homicide Unit prosecuted this case.

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