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Detectives bust suspected illegal cannabis operations in southern Santa Barbara County

Posted at 3:56 PM, Jun 06, 2019

One person was cited and another arrested after Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s officials served search warrants at two south coast cannabis operations on Tuesday.

The first warrant was served in the 4200 block of Carpinteria Ave. in Carpinteria. Sheriff’s officials say detectives found an illegal indoor cannabis operation that was operating without state licenses and in violation of Carpinteria City codes.

Detectives reportedly found several cultivation rooms, along with rooms for cloning and drying cannabis, and seized more than 1,900 plants and five pounds of processed cannabis.

Investigators say the cannabis cultivation facility was operating with proper licenses and against city code. (Photo courtesy Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office)


The second location searched was located on Monte Cristo Ln. in Montecito. Sheriff’s officials say detectives found 15 Armenian laborers in the process of trimming cannabis which had come from the indoor cultivation site.

Investigators say the laborers were hired by an out-of-county contractor and were not the victims of human trafficking.

However, one of the workers, identified as Vardges Babayan, 41, was arrested after sheriff’s officials say he was found to be in possession of a loaded and concealed handgun.

Vardges Babayan


Detectives reportedly seized approximately 100 pounds of processed cannabis from the facility, along with packaging and sales paraphernalia.

As a result of the investigation, the sheriff’s office says Forrest Buchanan, 44, of Montecito was cited for cultivation and sales of cannabis without a state license.

Detectives seized plants and processed cannabis at the two facilities. (Photo courtesy Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office)