Four suspects with alleged gang ties were arrested Wednesday morning on charges of conspiracy to commit extortion. Taken into custody on $500,000 felony arrest warrants were Benjamin Ybarra, 36, of Santa Barbara; Jesse Martin Enriquez, 35, of Santa Barbara; Franco Eric Aguiniga, 24, of Lompoc; and Ruben Jose Regalado Jr., 34, of Santa Maria.
According to Santa Barbara police spokesperson Sgt. Riley Harwood, the arrests came after a 16-month investigation that started when suspected gang leader Raymond Macias was apprehended on charges of kidnapping, torture, and solicitation of extortion. “SBPD detectives have been engaged in an ongoing investigation into the influence of the Mexican Mafia prison gang and Surenos (Southern California Hispanic street gang members) in the commission of crimes throughout Santa Barbara County,” Harwood wrote in a press statement. Macias was recently found guilty of his charges and will spend his life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The investigation revealed that this week’s four arrestees had conspired to extort money from Santa Barbara County residents on behalf of the Mexican Mafia, Harwood said. “The victims were involved in both criminal and legitimate activities,” he went on. “This practice is colloquially referred to by gang members as ‘collecting taxes.’”
Court dates for the suspects have not yet been set. Citing the upcoming prosecution, authorities have so far declined to release additional details on the arrests.