Bunker discovered in a Santa Maria field hid drugs, stolen goods and a suspect

An investigation into thefts from farms in the Santa Maria area took a surprising turn this week when detectives stumbled upon a makeshift underground bunker filled with stolen property, drugs and one bedraggled suspect.

A Sheriff’s Rural Crimes detective and K9 unit discovered the bunker when they noticed a 10-foot hole in a transient camp in the area of A Street and La Brea Avenue.

The hole led to a bunker, and inside, they found 31-year-old Daniel Nunez covered in dirt and grass and allegedly under the influence.

Investigators had been looking into reports of stolen property from several farms in the Santa Maria area, and a stolen fertilizer injection pump had been found nearby the previous week, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Upon arriving at the scene, the team found bicycles and a transient camp in the middle of the field. Hidden in the area, they discovered stolen welding equipment, grinders, hand tools, battery chargers, identification documents, sports memorabilia and a laptop computer, according to the office.

“When the deputies ventured down through the tunnel into the sleeping area, they located meth pipes and two bindles of suspected methamphetamine,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a press release. “The deputies also discovered power cords connected to a nearby power pole that was being used to tap into the adjacent property owner’s electricity.”

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Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s found a homeless encampment with stolen goods in Santa Maria. Courtesy photo

Nunez, who provided a false name to deputies, allegedly had “two outstanding warrants including one for absconding from his electronic monitoring program.”

The sports memorabilia, identification documents and the laptop computer found by deputies “in and about the underground bunker have been linked to a commercial burglary of a storage facility and to a residential burglary.”

Both burglaries took place in Santa Maria, and the property is being returned to the owners, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Nunez is being held in Santa Barbara County Jail without bail, due to his outstanding warrants.

He was booked on the warrants as well as charges of possession of a controlled substance, unlawful drug paraphernalia, being under the influence of a controlled substance, providing false identification to a peace officer and theft of utility services.

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Nick Wilson covers the city of San Luis Obispo and has been a reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo since 2004. He also writes regularly about K-12 education, Cal Poly, Morro Bay and Los Osos. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley and is originally from Ojai.