James Harder

James Harder

Narcotics detectives with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department on Thursday raided two marijuana dispensaries in South Santa Barbara County and a dispensary in San Diego, plus several residences, as part of a nearly yearlong investigation. Three suspects were arrested, and detectives seized cash, marijuana and illicit edible products.

Spokesman Drew Sugars said the department had received numerous tips and complaints of drug trafficking and money laundering at the Helping Hands Wellness Center, on the 4100 block of State Street in Santa Barbara, and at Choice Pharmacy, on the 6300 block of Lindmar Street in Goleta.

An investigation revealed that both businesses had been operating beyond the scope of Proposition 215 and Senate Bill 420, Sugars said.

A search warrant served at at the Helping Hands Wellness Center yielded hundreds of edible marijuana items, nearly 75 pounds of processed marijuana for sale, 200 plants, $20,000 in cash and an ATM.

A search warrant served at Choice Pharmacy yielded hundreds of edible marijuana items, 1,100 marijuana plants, dozens of pounds of processed marijuana for sale, an ATM, hashish, hash oil and several security safes with contents yet to be determined.

Craig Corneal

Craig Corneal

Detectives also investigated the Helping Hands Wellness Center on the 3500 block of Fifth Street in San Diego. They recovered hundreds of edible marijuana items, 35 pounds of processed marijuana for sale and $17,000 in cash.

In Thursday’s multiagency operation, personnel from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, the Santa Barbara Police Department and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department served search warrants at residences in the following areas of Santa Barbara and San Diego counties:

» 6300 block of Lake Decatur Avenue in San Diego. James Harder, 30, was arrested and booked into the San Diego County Jail on charges of felony drug trafficking and felony money laundering. Bail was set at $2 million. Harder, who is awaiting transfer to the Santa Barbara County Jail, is suspected of operating all three dispensaries with 29-year-old Craig Corneal, also arrested on Thursday.

Laura Bertucci

Laura Bertucci

» 3000 block of Serena Road in Santa Barbara. Harder has been linked to the property and is believed to have lived there. Detectives seized nearly $70,000 in cash, plants from a small marijuana grow in basement and marijuana growing equipment.

» 5300 block of Shoreline Drive in Goleta. Detectives seized $2,400 in cash and 11 pounds of processed marijuana. Corneal was arrested and booked into Santa Barbara County Jail on charges of felony drug trafficking and felony money laundering. Bail was set at $2 million.

» 100 block of Sumida Garden Lane in Goleta. Laura Bertucci, 24, was arrested and booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail on charges of felony drug trafficking and felony money laundering. Bail was set at $500,000. Bertucci is suspected of helping operate the dispensaries.

Noozhawk managing editor Michelle Nelson can be reached at mnelson@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.