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Millionaire’s Elaborate Jail Escape Plan Foiled, Florida Sheriff Says

VERO BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Authorities in Florida say they foiled a prison escape plan hatched by a 78-year-old businessman who previously fled to France after his 2014 arrest on child pornography charges before be arrested in another country and returned to the United States

A tip from outside prison has sparked a two-month investigation into the actions of John Manchec, some of his employees and others he befriended while in prison, the Indian River County Sheriff Eric Flowers at a press conference. Manchec is an American and French citizen.

“Essentially, the plan comes down to this,” the sheriff said. “Those people on the outside are going to wait for Manchec to have a doctor visit, and they’re going to get our corrections staff out while they’re in the hospital.”

The plan also called for Manchec employees to have a plane – which the sheriff said the man owns – ready near Fort Pierce, so he could escape.

Manchec, who the sheriff described as a multi-millionaire, was originally arrested in 2014 on 49 child pornography charges. He left the country to avoid prosecution after posting nearly $500,000 bond. He returned to southern France where he owned a medieval estate, Château Pechrigal, the sheriff said.

The sheriff said attempts to extradite Manchec from France were rejected, but he was eventually arrested in the Dominican Republic in 2020 and returned to Florida.

Manchec sought release from jail in January, saying he suffered from multiple chronic health conditions and because he broke his hip and wrist late last year, the sheriff said. The request was denied.

The escape plot centered on a medical appointment on April 12, Flowers said. But those involved in the plan had their lips loose, and investigators were handed a tip they began to investigate.

A review of Manchec prison telephone records revealed that he used the code words “paint job” while speaking with his employees about the plot.

The plan included preparing his plane, a 140-foot (42-meter) yacht, a black utility van and other vehicles that were purchased just for the escape attempt, Flowers said. Manchec even bailed out a cellmate who lived with him and helped with the arrangement, including packing a suitcase and buying his brewed liquor, the sheriff said.

“He’s going back to his castle in France…he’s going to escape on his plane and go back to France and he’ll never have to face these charges,” the sheriff said.

“It was the real deal,” Flowers said, adding that the plan was discovered before it could be implemented.

Manchec remains in the Indian River County jail for attempted escape, and four others have been arrested and charged in the conspiracy. A lawyer who could speak on Manchek’s behalf was not on the prison records.

Manchec was originally arrested in December 2014, following a child pornography investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.


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