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Thursday, January 17 , 2019, 12:10 am | Light Rain Fog/Mist 59º


$85 Million in Marijuana Plants Destroyed, Two Men Arrested in Raids

Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department teams up with state and federal agencies to conduct four operations

Law enforcement officials destroyed $85 million worth of marijuana plants after raids began last week in a remote area of the Los Padres National Forest, an effort that netted two arrests in the process.

Jose Humberto Rivera

Jose Humberto Rivera, 46, of Ventucopa and Jose Garcia-Armas, 34, of Los Angeles were arrested during the raids and charged with marijuana cultivation, according to Kelly Hoover, spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.

The Sheriff’s Department conducted the raids, along with a host of state and federal agencies, including the California Department of Justice, the U.S. Forest Service, the California National Guard, the Santa Barbara Regional Narcotic Enforcement Team and the California Department of Fish & Wildlife.

The agencies conducted four marijuana eradication operations on U.S. Forest Service land between last Thursday and Tuesday, Hoover said, and were based off tips from community members as well as sightings by law enforcement from the air.

“In all, 10 illegal marijuana growing operations were discovered in the Cuyama Valley and near Figueroa Mountain, and more than 28,000 plants, worth a potential street value of approximately $85 million were eradicated,” Hoover said.

Beginning last Thursday, three grow sites were raided on Forest Service lands adjacent to Old Sierra Madre Road in the Cuyama Valley, and more than 2,500 marijuana plants were eradicated during this operation.

The following day, a grow site off Highway 33 in the Cuyama/Ventucopa area was raided and was the result of a joint investigation involving the Santa Barbara Regional Narcotic Enforcement Team and thee Sheriff’s Department.

Rivera was arrested at this raid, and his case is under investigation, Hoover said.

Jose Garcia-Armas

On Monday and Tuesday, six illegal marijuana grow sites consisting of more than 19,000 plants from the mountains above the Davy Brown Campground/Sunset Valley Road area, near Figueroa Mountain were raided, where Garcia-Armas was arrested.

The large-scale eradication operations conducted on these two dates were made possible by the California Department of Justice’s “Campaign Against Marijuana Planting” program, in conjunction with the local law enforcement assets, Hoover said.

The Santa Barbara County Air Support Unit also assisted by hauling marijuana plants and trash from the illegal marijuana grow sites, she said. A large amount of trash, including toxic chemicals, were also discovered near the grows and were removed from the forest.

Hoover said the Sheriff’s Department is cautioning the public to be on the lookout for illegal marijuana growing operations and to alert authorities if they see any suspicious activity. 

“If you do come across anyone who may be associated with the illegal groves, you should avoid contact and call law enforcement immediately,” she said. “The suspects involved in marijuana growing operations are often times armed and potentially dangerous.”

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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