Santa Barbara – Pull back the curtain on this city’s thin veil of tranquility, prosperity, and the lifestyles of the notably “rich & famous” enjoying the climate and lush tree-lined neighborhoods, and you’ll find a dangerous underbelly of violent gang activity the local chamber of commerce would prefer to keep from public view.
But the reach and impact of local gangs became embarrassingly public on November 12th when the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury indictments against Edgar “Playboy” Cordova, 29, and Benny “Conejo” Ybarra, 36, were unsealed and provided for public scrutiny. Both Cordova and Ybarra now stand charged with conspiracy to commit murder, extortion, and conspiracy to commit extortion pursuant to a 16-month long investigation involving informants, surveillance, and telephone wiretaps.
According to details released in the indictment, on July 16th Cordova—who was arrested in October as he attempted to re-enter the U.S. at the Mexican border—was recorded during a phone conversation in which he demanded $500 per month payments from local area gangs in Lompoc, Santa Maria, Goleta, and Santa Barbara to reputed Mexican Mafia boss Michael “Boo” Moreno, the dominant criminal street gang leader in both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. Throughout the recorded conversations, the indictment describes Cordova discussing “how to use violence to get individuals to pay taxes.”
Both Ybarra and Cordova were specifically named in Santa Barbara’s unsuccessful effort to impose a “gang injunction” throughout specific geographic areas of the city. Both suspects are currently held in Santa Barbara County Jail with bail amounts of $1,200,000 each.
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