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US prisoners use toothbrush to dig hole, go for pancakes

WASHINGTON (AFP) – It was almost a clean getaway: two American inmates dug their way out of prison with the help of a toothbrush – only to be arrested hours later at a pancake restaurant.

The two men, identified as John Garza, 37, and Arley Nemo, 43, were reported missing from the Newport News Jail Annex on Monday evening in the state of Virginia.

They used makeshift tools made from a toothbrush and a metal object to take advantage of what the sheriff’s office called a construction flaw in a wall of the prison to gain access to unsecured reinforcement bars used in construction.

Using the reinforcement bar, they punched a hole through that wall and scaled another to make their escape.

But their taste of freedom was brief, as they were arrested in the wee hours of Tuesday at a branch of a pancake restaurant chain called IHOP in the nearby town of Hampton.

The sheriff’s statement did not say if the men were inside or outside the restaurant when they were caught.

“I’m thankful for the citizens who observed Garza and Nemo at the IHOP and notified law enforcement. It reinforces what we always say, ‘see something, say something’,” Sheriff Gabe Morgan said.

Garza was in custody on charges including contempt of court and probation violations, while Nemo was in for offenses including credit card fraud and forgery, the statement said.

The sheriff’s office would not reveal exactly how the men exploited the flaw in the prison’s construction.

“Due to the fact that this weakness presents itself throughout the facility, and until all weaknesses are identified and secured, we will not discuss the situation further for security reasons,” the statement said.

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