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‘This was the real deal’: Millionaire accused pedophile planned to escape from Florida jail and flee to medieval castle in France: Sheriff 

John Manchec, the castle his company owns in France, and his 140-foot yacht (IRCSO)

John Manchec, the castle his company owns in France, and his 140-foot yacht (IRCSO)

Law enforcement authorities in Florida say that they foiled an elaborate prison escape planned by a 78-year-old multi-millionaire who is behind bars on dozens of child pornography charges. John Manchec, who evaded authorities by fleeing to France following his initial arrest in 2014, allegedly hired several henchmen to help him flee from detention and abscond to a castle in France owned by one of his several companies, authorities announced.

In addition to the 49 counts of possessing child pornography with intent to promote a sexual performance, Manchec is now facing an additional charge of attempted escape, court records reviewed by Law&Crime show.

According to a press release from the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office, following his 2014 arrest, Manchec posted a bond of $500,000 and fled the country to avoid prosecution, going to the south of France where he has dual citizenship and owns a medieval castle called Chateau Pechrigal.

After multiple attempts to have him extradited back to the U.S. from France failed, Manchec was arrested again in 2020 while in the Dominican Republic and was swiftly returned back to Florida.

When his attorney’s attempt to get him released from jail based on a chronic medical condition failed, Manchec allegedly hatched a plan to get out on his own.

Based on a tip from outside the jail, detectives opened a two-month investigation into the circumstances of the alleged escape. Investigators say they learned that Manchec and his alleged accomplices had been discussing the escape plan on jail phones using the code phrase “paint job” to hash out the details.

Manchec’s escape plan would allegedly start with a medical appointment scheduled for April 12., per the sheriff’s office. Manchec’s cellmate, who was being paid as an employee of one of Manchec’s companies, was supposed to notify a former inmate — also employed by the same Manchec-owned company — as to when Manchec was leaving the facility.

Two of Manchec’s henchmen were then supposed to intercept the IRCSO Corrections transport vehicle as it arrived at the medical facility, assault the corrections deputies, free Manchec, and flee to an undisclosed location. The sheriff’s office said that multiple vehicles, including a truck and van, would be waiting to help Manchec escape.

One of the men working for Manchec was Byron Harvey, his former cellmate. Authorities say that Manchec actually paid Harvey’s bail and let him stay at one of his palatial properties in exchange for Harvey packing his suitcases and ordering his favorite liquor.

“Essentially, the plan comes down to this. These folks that are on the outside are going to wait until Manchec has a doctor’s visit, and they are going to take out our corrections staff while he’s out at the medical facility,” Indian River County Sheriff Eric Flowers said during a news conference on Monday. “This was the real deal, these folks were actually planning and plotting this escape. He thinks he’s going to have these guys attack our corrections folks and fortunately, our detectives and our team were able to intercept this and they did a fantastic job and because of it, they’re all facing additional charges.”

In addition to the aforementioned vehicles, authorities said that Manchec’s “tremendous amount of resources” included a private airplane which is housed near the correctional facility and a 140-foot yacht, both of which were prepared to help facilitate his alleged escape.

Sheriff Flowers said that the investigation into the plot remains ongoing and more people may face charges.

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.