Law enforcement seized 3,164 pounds of methamphetamine from a panga boat intercepted Wednesday morning at Arroyo Quemada Beach west of Santa Barbara.
Law enforcement seized 3,164 pounds of methamphetamine from a panga boat intercepted Wednesday morning at Arroyo Quemada Beach west of Santa Barbara. (Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department photo)

Law enforcement officers intercepted a panga boat at Arroyo Quemada Beach west of Santa Barbara, leading to the arrests of 33 people early Wednesday morning in one of the largest drug seizures in Santa Barbara County history. 

At about 3 a.m., detectives and patrol deputies from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department along with personnel from other law enforcement agencies caught the panga boat carrying 3,164 pounds of methamphetamine, sheriff’s spokeswoman Raquel Zick said.

Along with setting a milestone for meth in the county, the incident is believed to be one of the largest methamphetamine seizures in the nation’s history, Zick added.

Fifteen of the 30 adults arrested reside in Santa Barbara or Goleta, with the rest coming from various communities in Southern California.

“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. “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.”

The panga boat, which originated in Mexico, was tracked to coastline at Arroyo Quemada Beach, Zick said.

Authorities described the vessel as a 40-foot homemade boat equipped with three 300-horsepower Yamaha engines, Zick added.

Arrested were 29 adult males, one adult female and three juveniles.

The 30 adults were transported to the Santa Barbara County Main Jail on suspicion of conspiracy and transportation of narcotics for sale, both felony charges. 

Two of the suspects, Ricardo Desales, 51, of Anaheim and Fernando Arroyo, 42, of Moreno Valley, attempted to flee and were bitten while being apprehended by sheriff’s K-9 units, Zick said. They were both medically cleared, and then booked with an additional charge of misdemeanor resisting arrest.  

Santa Barbara residents arrested were Gabriel Moreno-Sepulveda, 31; Rogelio Valles-Vasquez, 61; Rodolfo Martinez, 59; Brian Armendariz, 26; Pedro Zavala-Luna, 41; Alexis Martinez, 24; and Humberto Franco-Gonzalez, 54.

Goleta residents taken into custody were Mariano Joanico, 35; Oswaldo Lopez-Felix, 37; Felix Mojardin, 25; Israel Sosa, 38; Saul Loza, 29; Mario Saenz-Avila, 35; Enrique Transito-Alejo, 58; and Santiago Carrillo-Galvan, 53.

Also arrested were Antonia Gonzales, 33, of Riverside; Juan Alvarez, 43, of Pomona; Jesse Padilla, 30, of Whittier; Noe Ortega, 37, of Jurupa Valley; Joel Barrios, 50, of Bell; Aldolfo Ortega, 72, of Mira Loma; Enrique Ortega, 25, of Mira Loma; Indargo Franco-Gonzales, 51, of Moreno Valley, Salomon Arzate-Garcia, 43, of Riverside; Vicente Guevara-Valencia, 58, of Mira Loma; Henry Ayala, 62, of Whittier; Ernesto Pacheco, 32, of Los Angeles; and Luis Rodriguez-Galvez, 44, of Whittier.

The juveniles, whose names were withheld because of their ages, were released to their parents.

The case will be prosecuted by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office pending review by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Also assisting in the operation were personnel from County Air Support along with  outside agencies including the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Homeland Security, the FBI, the U.S. Coast Guard, the California State Parks Police and the California Highway Patrol K9 and Coastal Division Air Operations.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at