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CALIFORNIA BRIEFING / SANTA BARBARA : 17 are arrested in drug investigation

November 13, 2009|Steve Chawkins

An investigation that started with the search for a dead man's body in an illegal marijuana garden near Santa Barbara has, after six months, resulted in the arrests of 17 people on drug charges.

The missing man, Jesus Omar Villa of Fresno, is presumed dead, although authorities have yet to find his body.

During the investigation, Santa Barbara County sheriff's deputies said they learned that several suspects had planned to destroy evidence of Villa's death by setting a brush fire at the marijuana garden he allegedly tended in the Santa Barbara foothills. That fire was never set, however, and cadaver-sniffing dogs failed to find Villa's body at the Los Padres National Forest site off West Camino Cielo Road.

The arrests were made beginning in September. In all, authorities confiscated more than two pounds of cocaine, 327 pounds of marijuana, 11 guns and $39,000 in cash.

-- Steve Chawkins

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