Two men arrested last month during the early morning raid of an illegal pot grow in the Los Padres National Forest near Happy Canyon Road will be sentenced to 120 days in County Jail and five years of probation. Joel Lopez, 27, and Cipriano Torres, 37, each pleaded no contest to one felony charge of marijuana cultivation and admitted they were armed with guns, said Senior Deputy District Attorney Stephen Foley. They are scheduled to appear in court November 6 in Santa Maria for their sentencing.
Tipped off by an area hunter, detectives from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Narcotics Unit along with personnel with the California National Guard and United States Forest Service descended on the grow about ¾ of a mile south of the Happy Canyon Shooting Range at 6 a.m. on September 20. They spotted one suspect who was able to run away, but soon tracked down and arrested Lopez and Torres. A loaded Ruger rifle and Remington 30-06 semi-automatic rifle were found nearby. The 1,600-plant grow had recently been harvested.
While the Sheriff's Office said in public statements that it seized around 100 pounds of processed marijuana worth approximately $250,000 on the streets, the official incident report states only 66 pounds were seized.
According to Foley, Lopez said he had been living and working at the grow for approximately six months, and that he was going to be paid five percent of the grow's total yield. He was hired shortly after arriving illegally in the United Sates from Mexico, Foley said.
Torres also illegally immigrated from Mexico and had been living and working at the site for five months. He was told he would make between $15,000 and $20,000, depending on the yield, Foley explained. Torres told authorities the harvested marijuana was going to be taken down to the Los Angeles area.