Nine area residents, including three people from Santa Maria, have been arrested for their alleged involvement with a large-scale marijuana-trafficking organization.
The arrests came at the conclusion of a year-long investigation, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.
Two marijuana plantations reportedly connected to the operation were uncovered last week in the county.
Search warrants have been served at seven locations in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, resulting in the discovery of more than 900 active indoor and outdoor marijuana plants, more than 300 pounds of processed and bagged marijuana for sale, more than 50 pounds of hash, and several million dollars in hash oil and a hash conversion lab.
Investigators also seized more than $125,000 in cash, a 2010 Porsche Panamera and nine motorcycles.
Several pounds of the processed marijuana were found in a child’s bedroom, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
Investigators found that the primary suspect, Erik Bjorklund, 55, of Santa Barbara was growing marijuana at his residence in the
2900 block of San Marcos Pass Road. In addition, Bjorklund was growing marijuana with another suspect, Kelsey O’Reilly, 33, from Santa Barbara, on property in the Tepusquet Road area of Santa Maria, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
The marijuana plants on the two properties were eradicated by sheriff’s detectives last week. They had an estimated combined value of $8.8 million.
Bjorklund conducted his operation under the guise that he was legally growing medical marijuana, according to Drew Sugars, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department. In reality, Bjorklund was selling large amounts of marijuana across Southern California, according to Sugars.
“This was just a straight-up drug-trafficking operation — purely to make money,” Sugars added.
“Based on the numbers, it’s certainly a significant operation,” he said.
Another purported business partner of Bjorklund, Jeffrey Vines, 62, of Ojai, was allegedly bottling large quantities of a liquid mixture with alcohol and cannabis for Bjorklund.
Vines was found to be a high-risk sex-offender on active parole. A large quantity of suspected child pornography was found at Vines’s residence, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
The others arrested and booked into Santa Barbara County Jail on various drug and other charges were: Rachel Ziemer, 24, of Santa Barbara; Christopher Hawkins, 59, of Santa Barbara; David Ziemer, 53, of Santa Barbara; Kevin Howe, 40, of Santa Maria, Alina Stillwell, 24, of Santa Maria; and Ryan Brown, 27, of Santa Maria.