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.
"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.
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."
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.