Nine San Luis Obispo County residents have now been arrested or charged in a nine-month drug-trafficking investigation that resulted in what the sheriff called one of the county’s “largest cocaine arrests in recent history.”
Even though a judge denied bail to some defendants Friday, two of the nine had already bailed out, and one suspect is at large with a warrant out for his arrest.
On Tuesday, the Sheriff’s Office held a news conference to show the approximately 5 kilograms of cocaine — with an estimated street value of $200,000 — and several semi-automatic rifles, handguns and ammunition confiscated during searches carried out between Aug. 5 and 7.
The District Attorney’s Office had announced Friday the filing of a multitude of drug-related charges related to cocaine dealing, ranging from sales to residential burglary to conspiracy to commit a crime.
Those arrested or charged in the investigation are:
- Chase Michael Hanson, 25, of Morro Bay.
- Dane James Bennett, 26, of Morro Bay.
- Jonathan David Byham, 25, of Atascadero.
- Sawyer Scott Sackett, 18, of Paso Robles.
- Johnnie James Medina Jr., 27, of Morro Bay.
- Alexander John Getzbouchillon, 23, of Los Osos.
- Jason Vidal Sianez, 27, of Atascadero.
- Joseph Arch Messineo, 39, of Atascadero.
- Alexander Allan Matarese, 31, of Cayucos.
Six of the men were arraigned inSan Luis Obispo Superior Court
on Friday; Hanson, Bennett, Getzbouchillon, Medina, Byham and Sackett each pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Sianez and Messineo each posted $30,000 bail Thursday and were released from jail prior to Friday’s charges. Neither has yet to enter a plea in court.
Matarese was not located during the searches and remains out of custody with a warrant for his arrest.
During Friday’s hearing, Deputy District Attorney Dave Paxton filed a motion requesting the court reject bail for the defendants until a hearing has been conducted, to ensure no bail money came from illegal activity.
“… (There) is probable cause to believe that any bail proffered would be attributable to the felonious conduct of the defendants,” Paxton wrote. “This money would come in the form of previously stockpiled, ill-gotten gains and/or through a concerted effort by confederates to feloniously generate new money.”
Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Duffy approved the motion, and the defendants were remanded to jail. The motion failed to name defendant Hanson, though Duffy allowed him to be added to the ruling.
Attorneys for Byham, Getzbouchillon and Sackett requested a bail reduction hearing, which was set for Wednesday. Assistant District Attorney Lee Cunningham said Tuesday afternoon that the remaining defendants’ attorneys would be required to motion for a similar hearing before they are eligible for bail.
In a written declaration in the case, Sheriff’s Office Detective Victor Nunez wrote that the Sheriff’s Office began an investigation in November 2014 into a trafficking organization accused of selling cocaine by the kilogram, or about 2.2 pounds.
“The (group) is a sophisticated organization utilizing a chain of command and compartmentalizing various components that prevents one component from knowing the identity of other components,” he wrote.
The report reads:
During the investigation, detectives learned that the ringleader of the group, Hanson, would place orders of cocaine to his connection and coordinate deliveries through Bennett.
Bennett, the report says, would direct “drivers” who did not know Hanson.
At some point, detectives set up surveillance at Hanson and Bennett’s residence in the 700 block of Napa Avenue in Morro Bay. In May, detectives secured a phone wiretap from Superior Court Judge John Trice and monitored several drug transactions between June and August involving kilograms of cocaine within San Luis Obispo and Kern counties.
On July 7, detectives reportedly witnessed Bennett provide Matarese with cocaine to deliver to Byham. Matarese then delivered the drugs to Getzbouchillon, who delivered the drugs in a paper bag to Sianez outside an Atascadero bar.
Matarese left for Bakersfield on July 8 to pick up 3 kilograms of cocaine, the report says. On the way back, Matarese was pulled over by a sheriff’s deputy, and the drugs were confiscated. For the sake of the investigation, he was released from jail without charges.
Following Matarese’s brief detainment, however, Hanson began telephoning others that cocaine had been seized and scheduled another delivery five days later.
On July 25, with the help of a CHP helicopter, detectives monitoring Hanson, Bennett and Sackett watched as the three drove separate vehicles from Bakersfield to Morro Bay. During questioning later, Sackett told police that he thought he and Bennett were meeting “The Boss,” though he said he did not know who that was. They met a man driving a black Range Rover, later identified as Hanson, according to the report.
Between Aug. 5 and 8, search warrants were served in Morro Bay, Los Osos, Atascadero and Paso Robles. Investigators allegedly found guns, cocaine and tools used to “cut” and repackage the cocaine.
According to court records, Hanson has a prior conviction in 2010 for possession of cocaine for sale, and Bennett is currently on felony probation for inflicting corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant.
San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said during Tuesday’s news conference that the investigation was a collaborative effort between his office, the San Luis Obispo Police Department, the CHP, the District Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the Department of Homeland Security and Irish law enforcement. He added that one of the defendants — he declined to name whom — took a trip to Ireland during the investigation.
Five of the nine defendants are due back in court Aug. 17.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Hanson, Bennett, Getzbouchillon, Sackett, Medina and Byham remained in County Jail.