Hotel worker was running a drug lab in the boiler room of Goleta Marriott, sheriff says

Investigators remove evidence of a suspected drug lab discovered Tuesday in the boiler room of the Courtyard by Marriott hotel in Goleta.
Investigators remove evidence of a suspected drug lab discovered Tuesday in the boiler room of the Courtyard by Marriott hotel in Goleta.

A drug lab was discovered at a Courtyard by Marriott in Goleta on Tuesday after workers stumbled upon “suspicious chemicals” in the hotel’s boiler room, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said.

And deputies didn’t have to go far to find a suspect, as hotel maintenance worker Aaron Gorzeman, 37, of Oxnard, was already in jail.

He had been arrested on an outstanding warrant just days earlier in the hotel’s parking lot, where he was found with methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia, the Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

After receiving a 911 call from hotel staff at around 9 a.m. Tuesday, deputies responded to the property in the 400 block of Storke Road and found that the chemicals were actually the makings of a “clandestine” drug-manufacturing operation. Firefighters were called in case the ingredients and equipment were flammable.

Drug detectives suspected the lab was intended to make dimethyltryptamine, which is often called DMT — a “powerful hallucinogenic drug” that is made by pulling “chemicals from root bark through the use of highly toxic and flammable chemicals in an extraction vessel over an open flame,” according to deputies.

“If you suspect this type of illegal activity is occurring, call law enforcement right away,” deputies advised.

The hotel wasn’t evacuated because there was “no immediate threat,” but guests staying near the boiler room were moved elsewhere, deputies said. Kelly Hoover, a sheriff’s office spokesperson, said the hotel was “very cooperative.”

“The safety and security of our guests and associates is always a top priority,” Shiona Wood, general manager of the hotel, wrote in an email to McClatchy, adding that as police investigate, “we stand ready to assist.”

Gorzeman had been recently hired by Marriott and “had been there less than three weeks,” Hoover said.

Deputies said they found even more evidence of drug manufacturing when they searched the hotel and Gorzeman’s car. Authorities also searched the suspect’s home in Ventura County.

Deputies booked Gorzeman on new charges for drug manufacturing, the Sheriff’s Office said. He remains in jail on $100,000 bail.

DMT users experience heightened heart rates, agitation and “hallucinations frequently involving radically altered environments as well as body and spatial distortions,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The Sheriff’s Office warns that the drug can also cause “overwhelming fear,” paranoia and feelings of impending doom, lung problems, high temperatures, stomach trouble and more. The drug can even be deadly: “DMT users can also go into a state of unconsciousness or slip into a drug-induced coma, which can lead to death due to the user vomiting or choking,” deputies said.

Deputies called in the Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force to help dismantle the lab, a process that took most of the day and night, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune