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Sheriff’s Rural-Crime Unit Completes Investigation into Stolen Ag Equipment

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department's Rural Crimes Unit, with the assistance of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Rural Crimes Unit, has completed a 5-month investigation into the thefts of approximately $38,000 worth of stolen agricultural equipment.

The stolen equipment was discovered in two Santa Maria storage lockers this past December.

Detectives identified six suspects involved in the thefts, one of whom was already in the court process for her alleged involvement.

Maria De Olmos, 50, of Santa Maria was not booked at the jail, but she is facing one count of possession of stolen property and conspiracy to commit a crime.

This week, deputies went to the homes of each of the five remaining suspects where they were arrested and subsequently booked at the Santa Barbara County Jail.  

Those arrested include 36-year-old Hector Farfan Ramirez of Santa Maria, who was booked last night, on one count of grand theft, eight counts of possession of stolen property and conspiracy to commit a crime; 33-year-old Alberto Alvarez Andrade, a former resident of Cambria and most recently a transient in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties, was booked on four counts of commercial burglary, two counts of grand theft, two counts of possession of stolen property and conspiracy to commit a crime; 22-year-old Rigoberto Cadena Avila of Santa Maria was booked on one count of grand theft, two counts of possession of stolen property and conspiracy to commit a crime; 30-year-old Anthony Avelino Santella of Santa Maria was booked on one count of commercial burglary and conspiracy to commit a crime; 22-year-old Marcos Cerda Adame of Santa Maria was booked on one count of possession of stolen property and conspiracy to commit a crime.   

As part of this complex case, the Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Rural Crime Units investigated more than 20 different cases involving several farming and ranching businesses throughout the Santa Maria Valley and Nipomo area between May 2015 and December 2015.

Two of the victims in the Nipomo area were involved in construction which likely made them targets.  

The stolen property included water pumps, generators, expensive agricultural chemicals, hand tools, strawberry starter plants, weed eaters, backpack sprayers, broccoli bunching machines, drip tape, copper wire, and other related farming equipment.

The total loss of property recovered is approximately $20,000.

Based on the investigation, it appeared the equipment and chemicals were stolen, stored, and then sold either on the street or to farmers who did not realize they were purchasing stolen items.  

Fortunately, because most of the owners had taken time to mark their equipment with a personal name or the name of a business, most of the recovered equipment from the storage lockers has been returned to its lawful owners.

Without this identifying information, it would have been nearly impossible to track down the rightful owners and many of the victims would have been out, in some cases, of several thousand dollars’ worth of equipment needed to do their work.

The sheriff’s Rural Crimes Unit also wants to take this opportunity to thank citizens who provided tips and information that assisted in the investigation and helped identify the stolen property when photos were posted on our website and social media accounts.

The Sheriff’s Office also wants to remind residents if they see suspicious people, vehicles or activity around construction sites, farms and ranches to call 9-1-1.  For anonymous tips, please call 805.681.4171.

Kelly Hoover is a spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department.

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