GOLETA — Following months of investigation, authorities made an early evening raid on an illicit marijuana plantation just north of Goleta Oct. 6.
Narcotics detectives with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office arrested three suspects and seized $600,000 worth of cultivated marijuana plants during Wednesday’s operation.
The actual warrant search was months in the making.
“Detectives conducted extensive surveillance of the suspected grow” before they moved in, said sheriff’s spokesman Drew Sugars.
Having observed three vehicles departing the property, detectives attempted to stop them, but one of the cars accelerated out of the area and fled the scene. A brief pursuit followed, and when the vehicle was brought to a halt, the occupants ran into nearby woods and chaparral. Two escaped apprehension, while one was apprehended by deputies.
Sheriff’s aviation units were summoned, with aerial searches of the surrounding foothills continuing until approximately 10 p.m. Wednesday. Reverse 911 calls were sent to local area residents warning them of suspects on foot in the area. “Several more suspects are believed to remain at large,” Sugars said, “all of them Mexican nationals.”
Three suspects, including the drivers of the first two vehicles stopped at the growing area, were arrested and booked into Santa Barbara County Jail.
Luis Mendez, 53, of Bakersfield, is charged with felony marijuana cultivation, illegal possession of firearms, possession of marijuana for sale, and criminal conspiracy, with a bail set at $100,000. Gudalupe Lopez, 44, is charged similarly, in addition to charges of transporting marijuana, possession of a firearm during commission of a felony, and carrying a loaded firearm in public. He is currently held without bail pending immigration charges. Also apprehended and booked was Yesenia Canales, 23, on parallel charges with her bail set at $100,000.