SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. — Around 3 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s investigators made the largest drug bust in Santa Barbara County history.
Numerous detectives, patrol deputies, and personnel with allied agencies intercepted a panga boat — a few miles west of Goleta — at Arroyo Quemada beach.
“Yesterday morning’s interception of a panga boat was a culmination of an ongoing investigation and coordinated effort,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Public Information Officer Raquel Zick said.
It had 3,164 pounds of methamphetamine, according to a news release from Santa Barbara County Sherrif's Office. They said it is also one of the largest methamphetamine seizures in the nation’s history.
The 40-foot homemade boat originated in Mexico and was tracked to the shore of Arroyo Quemada beach.
“It had three 330-horsepower motors on it made by Yamaha,” Zick said. “So lots of power on this boat.”
The sheriff's office said 29 men 1 woman and 3 juveniles were arrested.
“The boat was manned by five people and there was a load crew of the remaining 28 people,” Zick said. “We intercepted all of those people and all of the drugs.”
“Drug cartels, smugglers and illicit narcotic dealers know no international, state or local boundaries. This successful operation was made possible only through the collaborative investigative and operational efforts of local, state and federal authorities. We will never know how many lives were saved from overdose or addictive misery as a result of this exceptional law enforcement action," Sheriff Bill Brown said.
According to their narcotics detectives, the COVID-19 pandemic has made meth more expensive throughout the United States.
“There is a spike in the cost,” Zick said. “That could have contributed to the desire to move a massive quantity in.”
All of the adult suspects were booked at the Main Jail, the juveniles were released to their parents.
Detectives from Santa Barbara County Special Investigations Bureau were assisted by Sheriff’s K9 Units, County Air Support and outside agencies including the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Homeland Security, FBI, United States Coast Guard, California State Parks Police and the California Highway Patrol K9 and Coastal Division Air Operations.
This case will be prosecuted by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office pending review by the United States Attorney.