FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida– Authorities have prevented an elderly businessman from fleeing a Florida jail and going back to France, where he had previously fled in order to evade child pornography charges.
A tip from outside the jail led to a two-month investigation of John Manchec, 78, and the individuals he had recruited for his escape plan, as revealed by Indian River County Sheriff Eric Flowers during a news conference on Monday.
“Essentially, the plan comes down to this,” Sheriff Flowers said. “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.”
According to Sheriff Eric Flowers, the plan involved Manchec’s employees using pepper spray on prison guards and escorting him to his private plane in Fort Pierce, located nearby, so that he could fly back to France.
Manchec, who is a wealthy individual holding both U.S. and French citizenship, has a history of legal trouble related to child pornography. In 2014, he was arrested on 49 charges related to child pornography. To avoid prosecution, he left the country after posting a bond of nearly $500,000 and settled in his medieval estate, the Chateau Pechrigal, in southern France.
Despite the United States’ efforts to extradite him, France refused to hand him over. However, Manchec was eventually arrested in the Dominican Republic in 2020 and subsequently brought back to Florida.
In January, Manchec requested permission to be released from jail, citing his chronic medical conditions and previous injuries, such as a broken hip and wrist. However, the sheriff denied his request.
The escape plan revolved around a medical appointment scheduled for April 12, as disclosed by Sheriff Flowers. However, it appears that at least one person involved in the plan tipped off law enforcement, leading to the unraveling of the plot.
Investigation of Manchec’s phone records while in jail revealed his use of the code words “paint job” when discussing the escape plan with his employees. They were tasked with preparing his plane, a 140-foot yacht, a black utility van, and other vehicles specifically acquired for the escape attempt. Manchec went as far as paying the bail for one of his cellmates, who then resided in his home and assisted in the preparations, including packing a suitcase and ensuring his favorite liquor was included.
According to Sheriff Flowers, the intention of the plan was for Manchec to retreat “back to his castle in France” and avoid facing the charges against him.
Manchec is currently detained at the Indian River County Jail, facing additional charges related to the escape. Two inmates and two employees involved in the plot have also been arrested and charged with conspiracy. No immediate response was received from a lawyer listed in Manchec’s court records when contacted for comment on the new charges.
Manchec’s original arrest dates back to December 2014, following an investigation into child pornography by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.