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$85 million in pot plants seized

Published On: Jul 25 2013 12:13:31 AM CDT
Updated On: Jul 25 2013 11:57:43 AM CDT

Drug agents discovered about 28,000 marijuana plants at ten locations in Santa Barbara County over six days between Thursday, July 18 and Tuesday, July 23. The entire haul is worth $85 million on the street.

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. -

Drug agents discovered about 28,000 marijuana plants at ten locations in Santa Barbara County over six days between Thursday, July 18 and Tuesday, July 23.  The entire haul is worth $85 million on the street.

The first eradication operation happened on July 18 at three separate grow sites on U.S. Forest Service land adjacent to Old Sierra Madre Road in Cuyama Valley. Officers discovered more than 2,500 marijuana plants at that location.

The next day, authorities seized another 5,700 plants off Highway 33 in the Cuyama/Ventucopa area. Officers arrested 46-year-old Jose Humberto Rivera of Ventucopa and charged him with marijuana cultivation.

On Monday, July 22, and Tuesday, July 23, drug agents raided six more grow sites and found more than 19,000 pot plants from the mountains above the Davy Brown Campground/Sunset Valley Road area, near Figueroa Mountain. They arrested 34-year-old Jose Garcia-Armas of Los Angeles.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff's officials said the suspects also left a large amount of trash, including toxic chemicals at the various grow sites.

Here is the entire SBSO press release:

85 Million Dollars Worth of Marijuana Plants Eradicated

Two Suspects Arrested for Marijuana Cultivation

Santa Barbara- In conjunction with the “Campaign Against Marijuana Planting” (CAMP) coordinated by the California Department of Justice, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office along with several other agencies including the United States Forest Service, California National Guard, Santa Barbara Regional Narcotics Enforcement Team (SBRNET) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted four marijuana eradication operations on U.S Forest Service land between Thursday, July 18th and Tuesday, July 23, 2013.  These illegal marijuana eradication operations stemmed from multiple investigations originating from tips from concerned community members, as well as aerial observation by law enforcement.  In all, ten illegal marijuana growing operations were discovered in the Cuyama Valley and near Figueroa Mountain and more than 28,000 plants, worth a potential street value of approximately 85 million dollars were eradicated.  Also, two individuals with suspected unlawful involvement in the illegal marijuana growing operations were arrested. 

On Thursday, July 18th, as a result of a USFS investigation, SBSO and USFS personnel conducted an eradication operation involving three separate grow sites on USFS lands adjacent to Old Sierra Madre Road in the Cuyama Valley.   More than 2,500 marijuana plants were eradicated during this operation.

The following day, on July 19th, more than 5,700 marijuana plants were eradicated from an illegal grow site located off Highway 33 in the Cuyama/Ventucopa area.  This eradication operation was the result of a joint investigation involving the Santa Barbara Regional Narcotics Enforcement Team (SBRNET) and the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office.  As result of this investigation, 46-year-old Jose Humberto Rivera of Ventucopa was arrested and charged with marijuana cultivation.  The case is under investigation.

On Monday, July 22nd, and Tuesday July 23rd, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office along with several other agencies including the United States Forest Service, California National Guard and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife eradicated six illegal marijuana grow sites consisting of more than 19,000 plants from the mountains above the Davy Brown Campground/ Sunset Valley Road area, near Figueroa Mountain.  34-year-old Jose Garcia-Armas of Los Angeles was arrested and charged with marijuana cultivation.  The case is under investigation.  The large scale eradication operations conducted on these two dates were made possible by the CAMP program, in conjunction with the local law enforcement assets.  The Santa Barbara County Air Support Unit assisted by hauling marijuana plants and trash from the illegal marijuana grow sites.

It is important to note that in addition to the removal of the illegally grown marijuana, a large amount of trash, including toxic chemicals were discovered and transported out of the National Forest lands by helicopter.  These marijuana growing operations on public lands are not only 100% illegal in all circumstances, but they also have significant negative impacts upon our environment.  The individuals responsible, cut down the native vegetation, introduce toxic chemicals into these National Forest lands, harm the wildlife and divert natural water supplies into naturally arid landscapes.  A major focus of these marijuana eradication operations is the removal of the chemicals, poisons and trash that were unlawfully introduced onto our National Forest lands.

The Sheriff’s Office wants to remind the public to be on the lookout for illegal marijuana growing operations and to alert authorities if you see any suspicious activity.  If you do come across anyone who may be associated with the illegal groves, you should avoid contact and call law enforcement immediately.  The suspects involved in marijuana growing operations are often times armed and potentially dangerous.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office is a partner in the California Department of Justice’s “Campaign Against Marijuana Planting” program (CAMP).  The CAMP program is dedicated to eliminating large scale illegal marijuana cultivations from public and private lands that cause deforestation, damage to wildlife habitats and pose danger to our citizens.

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