A two-day operation led to the eradication of nearly 6,000 marijuana plants worth $2.7 million in the Cuyama Valley and the rescue of a puppy, but no arrests, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, sheriff’s detectives assigned to the Special Investigations Bureau and Criminal Investigations Bureau, along with the two resident deputies from the New Cuyama substation, served a series of search warrants on suspected illegal marijuana cultivation sites.
The farming sites did not have licenses from the state or Santa Barbara County to operate legally, nor had those involved attempted to obtain proper licensing, sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said.
At the first location, on the 1600 block of Santa Barbara Canyon Road, arriving detectives saw three Hispanic men flee into the foothills.
“Due to the several outbuildings and the widespread marijuana grow, detectives were not able to pursue the suspects until they could conduct a search to ensure there were no additional suspects,” Hoover said.
Deputies located two rifles, a small amount of cocaine, more than $9,000 in cash, and a large marijuana grow, leading to the destruction of 1,955 marijuana plants at this location.
The team served another search warrant on a rural property accessed by Wasioja Road, where they found a large camp along with a marijuana grow.
The property was unoccupied when detectives arrived, but deputies believe the suspects likely fled when they saw law enforcement officers.
Detectives destroyed 2,318 marijuana plants, and noticed large amounts of trash from people camping at the location, including various grow chemicals.
A county helicopter responded to the area to help search for suspects from both sites, but they remained elusive.
A day later, detectives served an additional search warrant on a rural property on the 8300 block of Foothill Road, where they found a large marijuana grow with several camping trailers.
Detectives did not find suspects on the site, but say evidence indicated someone had been at the location within the past day.
Some 1,200 marijuana plants were destroyed at the site.
They also rescued a small puppy that appeared sick while huddled near chemicals used for the marijuana growing operation. The young dog was turned over to the county Animal Services staff and was later adopted by one of the detectives who found it.
Detectives continued working to identify those suspects involved in the funding the marijuana cultivation sites.
“The Sheriff’s Cannabis Compliance Team will continue to identify and investigate illegal marijuana cultivation sites within the county,” Hoover said. “The goal of the team is to stop the illegal cultivation of marijuana and prevent the environmental crimes associated with these illegal grows.”
Earlier this month, the team busted other illegal marijuana growing operations with connections to Tepusquet Canyon, Nipomo and Palos Verdes.