In the largest drug bust in Santa Barbara County history, sheriff's deputies on Wednesday intercepted a panga boat carrying more than a ton and a half of methamphetamine at a South Coast beach, resulting in the arrest of 33 suspected in the smuggling operation.
Sheriff's detectives and members of several federal, state and local law enforcement agencies intercepted the boat shortly around 3 a.m. after tracking it to Arroyo Quemada beach, according to spokeswoman Raquel Zick.
The 40-foot boat, which originated in Mexico, was equipped with three 300-horsepower Yamaha engines, carrying more than 3,100 pounds of methamphetamine.
The largest drug seizure in the county's history also may be the largest in the nation, according to Zick.
Agencies involved in the investigation and seizure included the Santa Barbara County Special Investigations Bureau, K-9 units and air support; the Ventura County Sheriff's Office; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; Homeland Security, FBI; U.S. Coast Guard; California State Parks police; and the California Highway Patrol K-9 and Coastal Division Air Operations.
Sheriff Bill Brown considers the bust a "milestone" in Santa Barbara County counter-drug operations.
"Drug cartels, smugglers and illicit narcotics dealers know no international, state or local boundaries," Brown said. "We will never know how many lives were saved from overdose or addictive misery as a result of this exceptional law enforcement action."
Those arrested include 29 men, one adult female and three juveniles. The 30 adults were transported to the Main Jail and booked on suspicion of felony conspiracy and transportation of narcotics for sale.
They include: Antonia Gonzalez, 33, of Riverside; Juan Alvarez, 43, of Pomona; Jesse Padilla, 30, of Whittier; Noe Ortega, 37, of Jurupa Valley; Santigo Carrillo-Galvan, 53, of Goleta; Joel Barrios, 50, of Bell; Enrique Transito-Alejo, 58, of Goleta; Adolfo Ortega, 72, of Mira Loma; Mario Saenz-Avila, 35, of Goleta; Enrique Ortega, 25, of Mira Loma; Saul Loza, 29, of Goleta; Gabriel Moren-Sepulveda, 31, of Santa Barbara; Rogelio Valles-Vasquez, 61, of Santa Barbara; Israel Sosa, 38, of Goleta; Indargo Franco-Gonzalez, 51, of Moreno Valley; Felix Mojardin, 25, of Goleta; Rodolfo Martinez, 59, of Santa Barbara; Oswaldo Lopez-Felix, 37, of Goleta; Salomon Arzate-Garcia, 43, of Riverside; Vicente Guevara-Valencia, 58, of Mira Loma; Henry Ayala, 62, of Whittier; Brian Armendariz, 26, of Santa Barbara; Mariano Joanico, 35, of Goleta; Pedro Zavala-Luna, 41, of Santa Barbara; Ernesto Pacheco, 32, of Los Angeles; Richardo Desales, 51, of Anaheim; Luis Rodriguez-Galvez, 44, of Whittier; Alexis Martinez, 24, of Santa Barbara; Fernando Arroyo, 42, Moreno Valley; and Humberto Franco-Gonzalez, 54, of Santa Barbara.
Two of the suspects, Desales and Arroyo, attempted to flee and were both bitten by sheriff's K-9 units, according to Zick.
Both were medically cleared and were booked with an additional charge of resisting arrested after they were medically cleared.
The three juveniles weren't named due their ages, which also weren't disclosed, but were released back to their parents, according to Zick.
The case will be prosecuted by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office after it's reviewed by the U.S. Attorney's Office, according to Zick.
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