Four arrested in organized theft ring
SANTA BARBARA — Four people have been arrested in connection with a series of theft-related crimes that occurred between December 2020 and February 2021, police said.
On Feb. 22, police were investigating the series of crimes and contacted Meranda Fernades, 30, and Ruben Montoya, 43, both of Santa Barbara. Mr. Montoya was found to be in possession of a loaded firearm and additional firearm components, as well as methamphetamine and personal identifying information with the intent to commit fraud. It was later discovered that Mr. Montoya, a convicted felon, was manufacturing partial firearms at his residence, according to the Santa Barbara Police Department.
He was arrested on several charges but released on bond due to COVID-19 restrictions. He was arrested less than a month later on suspicion of possession of a loaded handgun, possession of drugs, identity theft and other related crimes.
Mr. Fernandes was also found to be in possession of methamphetamine and heroin with the intent to sell, as well as in possession of the identifying information of numerous city residents with the intent to commit fraud. She was booked into jail on various charges, police said.
That same day, Amanda Valenzuela, 32, of Santa Barbara, was arrested on charges related to the same investigation. Police said she was in possession of personal identifying information and was also wanted for a slew of other charges, including two instances of identity theft, vehicle burglary, check forgery and credit card thefts.
She was booked but later released due to COVID restrictions. She was contacted and arrested again March 5 on suspicion of identity theft, theft, looting and drug charges, authorities said.
In the course of the investigations, Andrew Sebastian Lopez, 25, of Santa Barbara, was identified as a criminal associate of Ms. Valenzuela. Mr. Lopez was arrested in connection with several crimes, including burglary, identity theft, grand theft, drug charges, selling stolen merchandise, attempted burglary and possession of stolen property. Police said Mr. Lopez attempted to sell a stolen city work truck at a pawn shop in Riverside County.
Mr. Lopez was booked at the jail but released due to COVID restrictions. After each arrest and release, “he promptly re-offended,” and booked on new charges. After his latest arrest, he was remanded into custody by a judge, police said.
— Mitchell White
Authorities identify shooting victim
LOMPOC — The Lompoc Police Department has identified the victim of Sunday’s officer-involved shooting as 26-year-old Krys Brandon Ruiz, of Lompoc.
The officers involved in the shooting were Cpl. Andrew White, a 14-year veteran of the department, and Officer Mauricio Calderon, a 12-year veteran of the department with 25 years of law enforcement experience, police said.
Both are on paid administrative leave and an investigation is ongoing.
— Mitchell White