After months of pouring through 20 cases, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Rural Crime Unit arrested five suspects related to a string of farm equipment thefts in the Santa Maria and Nipomo areas at the end of last year.
Hector Ramirez, Alberto Andrade, Rigoberto Avila, Anthony Santella, and Marcos Cerda were taken into custody and charged with counts ranging from grand theft to conspiracy to commit a crime. A sixth suspect, Maria De Olmas, had already been charged and is facing two related counts.
The almost $40,000 worth of equipment was found in a few storage lockers in December. The haul included water pumps, generators, and copper wiring, as well as expensive agricultural chemicals and a wide range of farming tools. Most had been marked by the original owners and is being returned to them. The suspects were allegedly re-selling equipment to other unknowing farmers and street merchants.
The Sheriff’s Office extended its thanks to citizens who assisted the investigation with multiple anonymous tips.