More than 3,000 pounds of meth seized, 33 arrested
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department conducted the largest drug seizure in county history Wednesday morning, intercepting a panga boat carrying more than 3,000 pounds of methamphetamine, authorities said.
At approximately 3:04 a.m. Wednesday, Sheriff’s detectives, patrol deputies and personnel with allied agencies intercepted the panga boat at Arroyo Quemada Beach in Goleta. The boat was carrying approximately 3,164 pounds of methamphetamine, making Wednesday’s seizure one of the largest methamphetamine seizures in the nation’s history, said Raquel Zick, sheriff’s spokeswoman.
The interception was part of an extensive investigation and cooperative effort by a number of local, state and federal agencies.
The 40-foot homemade boat, which originated in Mexico, was equipped with three 300-horsepower Yamaha engines. In total, 33 people were arrested, including 29 men, one woman and three juveniles. The 30 adults were transported to the Main Jail and booked on suspicion of conspiracy and transportation of narcotics for sale, both felonies, Ms. Zick said.
Two suspects, Ricardo Desales and Fernando Arroyo, attempted to flee and were bitten while being apprehended by Sheriff’s K9 units. They were both medically cleared and booked with an additional charge of resisting arrest, Ms. Zick said.
The arrestees included: Antonia Gonzales, 33, of Riverside; Juan Alvarez, 43, of Pomona; Jesse Padilla, 30, of Whittier; Noe Ortega, 37, of Jurupa Valley; Santiago Carrillo-Galvan, 53, of Goleta; Joel Barrios, 50, of Bell; Enrique Transito-Alejo, 58, of Goleta; Aldolfo Ortega, 72, of Mira Loma; Mario Saenz-Avila, 35, of Goleta; Enrique Ortega, 25, of Mira Loma; Saul Loza, 29, of Goleta; Gabriel Moreno-Sepulveda, 31, of Santa Barbara; Rogelio Valles-Vasquez, 61, of Santa Barbara; Israel Sosa, 38, of Goleta; Indargo Franco-Gonzalez, 51, of Moreno Valley; Felix Mojardin, 25, of Goleta; Rodolfo Martinez, 59, of Santa Barbara; Oswaldo Lopez-Felix, 37, of Goleta; Salomon Arzate-Garcia, 43, of Riverside; Vincente Guevara-Valencia, 58, of Mira Loma; Henry Ayala, 62, of Whittier; Brian Armendariz, 26, of Santa Barbara; Mariano Joanico, 35, of Goleta; Pedro Zavala-Luna, 41, of Santa Barbara; Ernesto Pacheco, 32, of Los Angeles; Mr. Desales, 51, of Anaheim; Luis Rodriguez-Galvez, 44, of Whittier; Alexis Martinez, 24, of Santa Barbara; Mr. Arroyo, 42, of Moreno Valley; and Humberto Franco-Gonzalez, 54, of Santa Barbara.
The juveniles were released to their parents and their identities were withheld.
“Today’s seizure of a panga boat illicitly smuggling more than a ton and a half of methamphetamine into our county and the arrest of the 33 suspects responsible for transporting and unloading its ruinous cargo was a major milestone in counter-drug operations in Santa Barbara County,” Sheriff Bill Brown said in a statement. “Drug cartels, smugglers and illicit narcotic dealers know no international, state or local boundaries. This successful operation was made possible only through the collaborative investigative and operational efforts of local, state and federal authorities. We will never know how many lives were saved from overdose or addictive misery as a result of this exceptional law enforcement action.”
Detectives from Santa Barbara County Special Investigations Bureau were assisted by Sheriff’s K9 Units, County Air Support and outside agencies including the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Homeland Security, FBI, United States Coast Guard, California State Parks Police and the California Highway Patrol K9 and Coastal Division Air Operations.
The case will be prosecuted by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office pending review by the United States Attorney.