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2 Escape From Irvine Jail; 1 Is Captured After Chase

Inmates leave Musick by scaling a razor fence and then crawling through a storm drain.

October 01, 2003|Mai Tran | Times Staff Writer

A Newport Beach man once accused of impersonating an attorney escaped from a low-security jail in Irvine with an accomplice Tuesday in a flight that involved bloodied razor wire, a rented getaway car and a televised high-speed chase.

The escapee's undoing, authorities said, was that the getaway car, rented by an unknowing accomplice, was equipped with an electronic-tracking device.

Mark Thomas Georgantas, 41, of Newport Beach eventually surrendered to officials after a pursuit through Orange and Los Angeles counties. Authorities are still searching for James William Costilow, 23, of Riverside.

Georgantas was serving time for grand theft and conspiracy to defraud and was awaiting trial on other charges, said Jim Amormino, spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department. Costilow had been arrested on suspicion of possessing burglary tools and was also awaiting trial, Amormino said.

The men were present during a midnight roll call at the James A. Musick Branch Jail, a minimum security jail in Irvine, but were missing during a 5 a.m. check, Amormino said.

"Somehow, they were able to leave their barracks without setting off the alarm," he said.

The men climbed over the first row of razor-wire fences into a field, then tried to climb over a second set of 15-foot fences topped with two rows of razor wire, Amormino said. After the men got scraped up, they slipped through a storm drain that they pried open with a bar found at the farm.

"The storm drain cover was fastened to the cement with a dozen bolts," Amormino said.

The men ran through an industrial complex at Alton Parkway and Irvine Boulevard, where they left behind blood and jail-issued jumpsuits, then fled in different directions, officials said. Costilow may have been picked up by a waiting car. Georgantas ran to a nearby pay phone, where he called his girlfriend, who picked him up in a rented car at Trabuco and Culver drives.

"He tricked her into picking him up by saying that he was being released early from jail," Amormino said.

When she arrived, they got into an argument and Georgantas pushed her out of the car and fled, he said. The unidentified woman will not face criminal charges, authorities said.

The escapes prompted a seven-hour manhunt with helicopters, bloodhounds and a search team. The rental car company eventually activated the car's global-positioning-satellite system, which spotted Georgantas about 2:30 p.m. at Eastern and 3rd streets in an unincorporated area of East Los Angeles, authorities said.

Georgantas led officials on a 30-minute pursuit that snaked through Alhambra, west on the San Bernardino Freeway, then south on the Long Beach Freeway, where he got off at Washington Boulevard, said California Highway Patrol Officer Ron Burch. When he tried to get back on the freeway, CHP officers rammed his car to try to stop him but were unsuccessful.

Georgantas continued north on the Long Beach Freeway to the Santa Ana Freeway, then north on the Hollywood Freeway before the car's right front tire blew out. He got off at Alameda Street, and his car was boxed in behind a city bus near Arcadia Street. He got out of the car with his hands in the air, waving a note, and was arrested without further incident. It was unknown what the note said.

Authorities said that Georgantas now faces additional charges of jail escape, carjacking, robbery, assault and reckless driving. Costilow will face escape charges when he is caught, Amormino said. Both men, he added, will be transferred to the Orange County Jail, a maximum security facility.

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Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.

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