Local News

Nov 13, 2009 12:57 PM by Ryan Foran

Major drug bust in Santa Barbara

One person is possibly murdered, 17 people are arrested, four more are on the loose, and more than $1,000,000 worth of drugs are confiscated.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Narcotics Bureau has wrapped up a six month investigation.

It involved a missing person who investigators believe may now be dead, and a major pot operation inside the Los Padres National Forest in the foothills of Santa Barbara County.

It's a story that reads more like a Hollywood script.

The fear really sets in when you realize most of it occurred in the foothills of Santa Barbara County.

More than 300 pounds of marijuana have been confiscated by authorities, along with more than two pounds of cocaine, eleven firearms, and nearly $40,000 in cash.

Most of this massive investigation stemmed from a 5,000 plant marijuana operation off of west Camino Cielo Road in Santa Barbara County somewhere in the Los Padres National Forest.

"I can't get into too many specifics because we're still searching for potentially a body that's buried there," Drew Sugars of the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department said.

Investigators say Jesus Villa, a 35-year-old from Fresno, is missing.

They believe he may actually have been killed by one of the 17 suspects already in custody.

But investigators say those 17 are giving them very little cooperation in the case.

One of the four suspects that detectives are still searching for is the head of a Mexican national drug trafficking organization.

"You do not want to confront any of these people that are running this operation because it's illegal, there is a lot of money at stake, and we're not sure what they're capable of," Sugars added.

Authorities say this six month long investigation is still far from over.

"We would like to have those four people in custody and of course first and foremost we're trying to find this missing person who could be the victim of a homicide," Sugars said.

Of the 17 arrested, two are juveniles.

One is just 15 and is being charged with assault with a deadly weapon after he rammed police cars with his vehicle.


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