SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office announced multiple arrests made in connection to a string of rural crimes that have taken place throughout the county, primarily near Santa Maria.
Reports of thefts from farms and ranches in the Santa Maria Valley led the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Rural Crimes Unit to arrest six suspects believed to be responsible for a number of rural crimes.
In April, the Sheriff’s Rural Crimes Unit investigated a burglary at a farm on the 4400 block of Brown Road where almost $17,000 worth of agricultural chemicals were stolen. That crime was one of several burglaries at various Santa Maria Valley farms and ranches.
Marc Tosches has seen the riff-raff in rural Santa Maria valley for years.
"Yea usually we get people coming around the farms, you don't want to be negative about it but are they scouting, are they looking for things, especially with the heavy equipment around," Marc Tosches of Guadalupe said.
Tosches has lived out here with his wife and kids for 20 years.
"And my very old dog," Tosches said.
Tosches recalled being a victim of theft out here once.
"Not tools but we had a cement fountain that was stolen like 20 years ago but that was very heavy so to make out with that would be very impressive," Tosches said.
Eleazar Sanchez-Cruz, 32, of Santa Maria was identified as a suspect in those burglaries and was arrested after being located trespassing on another ranch. Evidence located at the crime scene led to Sanchez-Cruz's arrest.
The arrest of Sanchez-Cruz led to the identification of two additional suspects: Marcos Cerda Adame, 23, of Santa Maria and Guadalupe Garcia Mendez, 20, also of Santa Maria. Adame and Mendez were located and arrested on warrants.
All three men were booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail and face charges of burglary and conspiracy. Additional suspects are believed to be involved but have not yet been identified.
The stolen agricultural chemicals were being stored at a local storage facility but were moved by the suspects before law enforcement arrived. Detectives were able to recover several hundred dollars of possible stolen construction related equipment. One item was reported stolen and was returned to its owner.
In May, the Sheriff’s Rural Crimes Detectives investigated the theft of a $25,000 equipment trailer belonging to a farm off of Bonita School Road near the border of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties.
The trailer was recovered a short distance away at a nearby farm. Detectives determined the suspects had caused more than $1,100 in damage to the trailer when they broke in and stole almost $1,400 in equipment from inside.
About a week later, while investigating a separate felony vandalism case at a farm near the intersection of Brown Road and State Route 1, Rural Crimes Unit Detective discovered evidence that tied the case to the stolen equipment trailer theft.
A witness was able to give a detailed description of the suspect and his vehicle in the vandalism case. That suspect description led to the arrest of Jairo Escobedo, 32, of Santa Maria. He was arrested and booked at the jail on charges of burglary, felony vandalism, grand theft and trespassing.
A separate incident in April resulted in the theft of a $7,000 Polaris Ranger 4 wheel ATV. The ATV was stolen from a farm on West Betteravia Road. The ATV's owner spotted the stolen vehicle parked at a residence in Santa Maria a few week later. The ATV was recovered as well as a stolen injection pump, estimating at a value of $1,400. The pump was recently stolen from a different farm in Santa Maria. The company who owned the pump was unaware it was stolen. They were contacted and the item was returned. Two 19-year-old men were identified as suspects.
The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office will prosecute with the recommended charges of grand theft, motor vehicle theft and conspiracy.
The total number of reports of thefts and burglaries has decreased significantly since the six arrests have been made.
Most of the stolen property in these recent burglaries was returned to its owners because of identifying information. Residents in the area are advised to put a name, phone number or other identifying marks on their property to make it easier for law enforcement to return valuable equipment if it is stolen.
Authorities are also requesting the public's help in locating the owners of a stolen portable welder and a stolen pressure washer.
Anyone with any information relating to the stolen items or other agricultural related criminal activity is asked to contact Detective McCarthy at (805) 934-6512. An anonymous tip can also be left by calling (805) 681-4171.