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IRCSO: Millionaire Inmate's Plan to Escape from County Jail to a Castle in France, Foiled

From left: Kerry Shephard, Ben Bashton, John Manchec, Kristen Maso De Moya, and Byron Harvey
 Manchec's yacht, Princess of Palau
Manchec's yacht, Princess of Palau

Indian River County - Monday May 22, 2023: A "multi-millionaire" inmate's plan to escape from the Indian River County Jail to his castle in France was foiled by Indian River County Sheriff Detectives.

During a news conference Monday at the jail, Sheriff Eric Flowers described a complicated plot devised by inmate John Manchec, a 78-year-old child pornography suspect currently in the county jail.

The plan involved two other inmates at the jail, Byron Harvey and Kerry Shephard, who Manchec befriended while in jail, and recruited into his scheme. Two of Manchec's employees are also accused, Ben Bashton and Kristen Maso De Moya.

The following suspects have been charged:

• John Manchec – Attempted Escape - $250,000 Bond

• Byron Harvey – Criminal Conspiracy, Unlawful Use of Two-Way Communication - $150,000 Bond

• Kristen Maso De Moya - Criminal Conspiracy – Arrested in St. Lucie County

• Ben Bashton - Criminal Conspiracy - $50,000 Bond

• Kerry Shephard – Criminal Conspiracy - $50,000 Bond

Escape to a Castle in France
Manchec is the owner of a company called Aero Shade Technologies, in St. Lucie County. The company makes window shades for expensive aircraft. He has multiple homes in the United States, the British Virgin Islands, and France where his castle, the Chateau De Pechrigal, is located. Manchec also owns a yacht, the Princess of Palau, a private airplane, The Navajo, which is housed at the Fort Pierce Regional Airport in St. Lucie County.

Manchec intended to use these assets to help facilitate and finance his escape, said Sheriff Flowers.

In April, Indian River County Sheriff detectives learned that Manchec was planning an escape and they were able to "intercept" cell phone conversations between Manchec and the alleged co-conspirators.

Manchec paid Harvey’s bond so he could be released, he allowed Harvey to live in his home, and he placed Harvey on the payroll for Aero Shade Technologies, said the Sheriff. Manchec also had another one of his employees, co-conspirator Ben Bashton, pay-off the still jailed Shepherd for his cooperation. Kristen Maso De Moya was also identified as a co-conspirator, she coordinated the phone calls between the jailed Manchec and his co-conspirators, said Flowers. She is also an employee at Aero Shade Technologies.

The plan was to have Shephard, still in jail, notify Harvey that Manchec was leaving the jail for a doctor's visit. Once the IRCSO Corrections transport vehicle arrived at the medical facility, Harvey and an as yet un-named accomplice, would assault the Corrections Deputies and free Manchec.

"These folks that are on the outside are going to wait until Manchec has a doctor's visit and they're going to take out our corrections staff while he's out at the medical facility and they're going to grab him and they're going to have his plane ready," said Flowers.

"We believe that there were weapons involved," said Flowers. "We take this very seriously as though they intended to potentially kill our folks out there ... we can't say for sure but we do believe ... they intended to use weapons."

According to the intercepted conversations, Manchec gave Harvey detailed instructions on what to pack for the flight back to France, including vodka.

"Manchec's attorney says 'He wants to go back to France where they don't take these charges seriously'" said Flowers. "We take this serious. We're not going to have another Roman Polanski situation on our hands. This is the real deal. This guy's been charged with child pornography."

Manchec's Arrest History
Manchec was originally arrested December 18, 2014 and charged with 49 counts of possession of child pornography, based on an investigation led by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Manchec has dual French and U.S. citizenship. He bonded out of jail on December 19, 2014 and fled to France to avoid prosecution. France refused to honor a U.S. extradition request.

"France would not extradite him on child pornography charges. They just said 'We're not going to cooperate, that's not a serious enough crime,'" said Sheriff Flowers. "So we continued to work to try to get him into custody."

In 2020, Manchec was located in the Dominican Republic, said the Sheriff. He was taken back into custody there and sent back to the Indian River County Jail, where he remains.