To hear the sheriff tell it, inmate John Manchec wanted his scheduled colonoscopy to be the stuff of James Bond films, an action-packed prelude to his life after escaping from jail - one hopefully spent basking on his 145-foot yacht and holing up in his French castle. Instead, investigators thwarted his alleged escape plan, and the multimillionaire remains in a Florida jail cell facing dozens of child pornography charges that could send him to prison for what amounts to a life sentence.
Authorities say the 78-year-old businessman planned to use the off-site medical procedure to escape the Indian River County jail in Vero Beach, Fla., flee to his native France and avoid being prosecuted. After investigators unraveled the alleged plot, Manchec was charged with attempted escape.
"It could almost be a movie screenplay," Indian River County Sheriff Eric Flowers told The Washington Post.
Defense attorney Bryan Savy said he would check with Manchec to see whether he wanted to comment on the sheriff's accusations, but did not immediately get back to The Post.
Manchec was originally arrested Dec. 18, 2014, and charged with 49 counts of possession of child pornography. He quickly posted a $490,000 bond to get out of jail pending his trial, according to a sworn arrest affidavit for one of Manchec's alleged co-conspirators.
In August 2016, he asked a judge to let him travel to France for business, a request that was denied, the affidavit states. Manchec, who has U.S. and French citizenship, allegedly went to France anyway, and authorities there refused to extradite him on the child pornography charges.
"They just said, 'We're not going to cooperate,'" Flowers said Monday at a news conference. "'That's not a serious enough crime.'"
But Manchec "made the mistake" of traveling to the Dominican Republic, where authorities would extradite him to the United States, the sheriff said. Law enforcement tracked him there in December 2020, arrested him the following month and brought him to the Indian River County jail, where he's remained ever since.
For more than two years, his case languished as Florida courts struggled to deal with a pandemic-induced backlog. But things were starting to move, Flowers told The Post. Although a date hadn't been set, state prosecutors were gearing up to go to trial.
"He could feel the weight of the trial coming," Flowers said. "It was imminent. He knew he was going to die in prison as a result of those charges, and this was his last-ditch effort."
In April, Flowers's investigators got an outside tip about Manchec plotting an escape, Flowers said at the news conference. Manchec allegedly started conspiring with two of his cellmates, paying one of their bonds so the cellmate could arrange and carry out the plan on the outside while living and operating from Manchec's house. At the same time, Manchec was giving orders to his employees outside the jail, according to Flowers.
"He's telling of 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 at the news conference.
Manchec knew the jail's medical staff didn't do certain procedures, like colonoscopies, which had to be handled off site, Flowers said. Once Manchec had a colonoscopy appointment scheduled, he allegedly planned for his employees and associates to wait for corrections officers to escort him out of the jail. Then, while he was inside the off-site medical facility at his doctor's appointment, they would attack the officers with "perfume," their code for pepper spray, according to Flowers.
With the officers neutralized, they allegedly planned to take Manchec to "the Navajo," his private plane, which would be waiting at an airport in St. Lucie County. Then, Manchec would fly home to France, where he planned to live in Chteau Pechrigal, his castle near Toulouse, the sheriff said.
"His plan is he's going to escape in his plane and get back to France, and he's never going to have to face these charges," Flowers said, adding that Manchec's plot was not a pie-in-the-sky fantasy. He owns Aero Shade Technologies, a Florida-based company that makes cockpit sunshades for jet planes, Flowers said. He is also a multimillionaire, the sheriff added at the news conference, holding up pictures of his castle and yacht, the Princess of Palau, as evidence.
"This guy has access to a ton of money," he said. "He has the ability to make this happen."
Flowers said he's proud that his investigators uncovered and foiled the alleged plot so that he can step up to a lectern to announce an attempted escape as opposed to an actual one. As for Manchec, he remains at the county jail, Flowers said.
"He's going to have to own up to it," he added, "and face these charges."