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Officials say they foiled millionaire’s elaborate escape plan

By Freida Frisaro | Associated press

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Authorities say they foiled an elderly businessman’s plan to escape a Florida jail and return to France where he had previously fled to try to avoid charges of child pornography.

A tip from outside the prison sparked a two-month investigation into John Manchec, 78, and the people he enlisted in his escape plan, the Indian River County Sheriff said Monday. , Eric Flowers, at a press conference.

“Essentially, the plan comes down to this,” Sheriff Flowers 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 was for Manchec employees to pepper-spray prison guards and fly him on his private plane to nearby Fort Pierce so he could fly to France, Flowers said.

File Photo: This photo provided by the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office shows John Manchec. Indian River County Sheriff’s Office via AP

Manchec is a multi-millionaire with dual American and French citizenship, Flowers said.

Manchec was arrested in 2014 on 49 child pornography charges. Flowers said he left the country to avoid prosecution after posting nearly $500,000 bond and moved to his medieval estate in southern France, Chateau Pechrigal.

France denied US attempts to extradite him, but he was eventually arrested in the Dominican Republic in 2020 and returned to Florida, according to the sheriff.

Manchec applied for release from jail in January, saying he suffered from chronic illnesses 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 at least one of those involved tipped off law enforcement, allowing investigators to unravel the plot.

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

They had to prepare his plane, his 140-foot (42-meter) yacht, a black utility van and other vehicles purchased just for the escape attempt, Flowers said. Manchec even bailed out a cellmate and then allowed them to live in his house. That person helped plan the escape, right down to packing a suitcase and his favorite booze, the sheriff said.

Flowers said the plan was to “go back to his castle in France” and never have to face the charges.

Manchec remains in the Indian River County Jail, with additional charges related to the escape. Two inmates and two employees were also arrested and charged with conspiracy in the escape plot. A lawyer on Manchec’s court records did not immediately return an email seeking comment on the new charges.

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

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