NewsTreasure CoastRegion Indian River County


Indian River County jail inmate plotted elaborate escape to castle in France, Sheriff Eric Flowers says

John Manchec bonds out cellmate, enlists co-conspirators to 'take out' corrections deputies in foiled getaway, sheriff says
Indian River County Sheriff Eric Flowers at news conference for foiled jail escape of John Manchec, May 22, 2023
Posted at 1:25 PM, May 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-22 15:23:37-04

VERO BEACH, Fla. — An inmate at the Indian River County jail orchestrated an elaborate plot to escape to his castle in France, bonding out a cellmate and enlisting several others to help him achieve his goal, Sheriff Eric Flowers said Monday.

But the plot was thwarted with the arrests of several co-conspirators, Flowers announced during a news conference at the Indian River County Sheriff's Office.

John Manchec, 78, was arrested on 49 counts of child pornography in 2014. He was released on bond and fled the country to avoid prosecution, Flowers said.

For years, deputies sought to extradite Manchec from France, where he had dual citizenship, but the French government wouldn't cooperate, Flowers said.

John Manchec, child porn suspect whose escape from Indian River County jail was foiled
John Manchec sought to escape to his castle in France, but his plan was thwarted by Indian River County Sheriff's Office deputies, Sheriff Eric Flowers says.

"In 2020, he made the mistake of ending up in the Dominican Republic," where deputies apprehended Manchec and brought him back to the Indian River County jail to face charges, Flowers said.

While incarcerated, Manchec shared a jail cell with Byron Harvey and Kerry Shephard, who helped to plot Manchec's escape, Flowers said.

Manchec even paid Harvey's bond so that Harvey could help him from the outside, the sheriff said.

"He pays for his bond to get him out of jail," Flowers said.

Byron Harvey, bonded out of jail to help John Manchec with escape
A poster shows the arrest photo of Byron Harvey, whose cellmate, John Manchec, bonded him out of jail to help with the planned escape.

Other co-conspirators were Kristen Maso De Moya, who was facilitating a series of telephone calls related to the escape plot, and Benjamin Bashton, the sheriff said.

The plan, as Flowers explained, was for the group to wait until Manchec's doctor's visit, at which time they would "take out" the corrections staff at the jail's medical facility and take Manchec to his waiting plane at the Fort Pierce airport.

Manchec laid out in precise detail what he would need as he made his escape, Flowers said.

"He's telling them what he wants in his suitcase, down to the clothing, down to what kind of vodka he wants in his suitcase when he leaves," Flowers said.

Harvey was living at Manchec's home to help prepare for the escape, including purchasing a van for the getaway and readying Manchec's personal belongings.

Flowers said that, during one of the phone calls, Manchec claimed he's "going back to his castle in France."

Sheriff Eric Flowers speaks about John Manchec foiled escape plan with posters showing inmate's castle in France and yacht, May 22, 2023
Sheriff Eric Flowers speaks about John Manchec's foiled escape from the Indian River County jail during a May 22, 2023, news conference at the Indian River County Sheriff's Office in Vero Beach, Fla. Posters in the background show Manchec's castle and yacht.

Among the assets Manchec owns are the Chateau de Pechrigal in Saint-Clair, France, and a yacht called the "Princess of Palau," the sheriff said.

 "This guy has access to a ton of money," Flowers said. "He has the ability to make this happen, there's no doubt about it."

Flowers said the two-month-long investigation began with a tip.

"These guys weren't quiet about this," Flowers said.