SQUAW FLAT — Narcotics detectives with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office last week made a pair of arrests in connection with the discovery of a sizeable illegal marijuana-growing operation just outside the city limits of Santa Paula and Fillmore in a mountainous area known as Squaw Flat.
Following an earlier fly-over by a sheriff’s office air unit on July 27, the department’s West County Street Team performed nighttime surveillance on a large “garden” just north of the single lane dirt road leading into active oil leasehold properties in the area.
According to sheriff’s Sgt. Mike Horne, who was involved in the surveillance and subsequent eradication work, officers observed five men leaving the cultivation area and hiding in nearby chaparral. Soon thereafter, a vehicle approached the men, stopped momentarily, then departed. As the men returned to the cultivated area, they were confronted by sheriff’s deputies, whereupon they attempted to flee into the night. Three subjects escaped, but Alfredo Temecula, 22, and a juvenile Mexican national, 16, were detained.
At this time, as described by sheriff’s spokesman Capt. Ross Bonfiglio, “deputies were waiting for the vehicle when it approached the paved highway down the hill.”
Spotting sheriff’s black-and-white waiting for him, the driver of the vehicle led officers on a 2-mile chase that ended abruptly when he exited the car and jumped over a roadside guardrail, escaping down a steep embankment.
Despite an aggressive nighttime search of the hilly terrain, the driver was not found, although 78 pounds of processed marijuana was discovered in his car. According to Capt. Bonfiglio, on-scene detectives “concluded that the driver had brought food supplies to the men who gave him the processed marijuana.”
Friday morning, narcotics officers returned to the site to find 1,138 growing marijuana plants, with evidence that substantially more than that had already been harvested. During the daylight eradication effort, another 10 pounds of processed marijuana was also found and brought into evidence.
Temecula was booked into Ventura County Jail for conspiracy to cultivate marijuana. According to Bonfiglio, the Mexican juvenile informed deputies that he had been working on the crop for approximately two weeks, and had been smuggled into the area by coyotes working the Arizona-Mexico border area.