John Connell, Freddie Gutierrez and Cynthia Alvarez
SANTA BARBARA COUNTY — The fundamental oversight frequently made by those behind the wheel of a stolen car hoping to go undetected by law enforcement is that cops have uncanny eyesight when it comes to identifying license plate numbers. If you’re going to steal a car, the first thing to do is alter or change the license plates.
Apparently, this tactic was unknown by five individuals arrested on January 19th when Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department patrol deputies cruised past Carpinteria’s Motel 6, frequently the temporary resting place for violators making their way northward through the county.
Driving through the parking lot, deputies spotted three people inside a vehicle that had reportedly been carjacked earlier the same evening in Burbank, some 90 miles to the south.
According to SBSD Public Information Officer Kelly Hoover, “deputies attempted to initiate an enforcement stop on the vehicle,” but the driver was having none of that and sped away, heading northbound on U.S. 101.
But at the next offramp, John Connell, a 23-year-old from Santa Barbara, lost control and drove the car into the road shoulder iceplant.
At that point, Connell abandoned the car and his two fellow travelers, Freddie Gutierrez, 24, a local Carpinteria resident, and Cynthia Alvarez, an 18-year-old from Santa Barbara. As Connell fled on foot, Gutierrez and Alvarez were taken into custody at the scene.
Shortly thereafter, additional Sheriff’s Department personnel arrived, including K9 Deputy “Aco”, a seasoned veteran accomplished at running down his prey.
It didn’t take long for Aco to locate Connell “hiding underneath a cargo trailer” nearby and to take him into custody with “minor injuries” suffered by the foolishly resistant Connell.
The ensuing investigation into the activities of Connell and the others—involving the repeated use of stolen credit cards throughout Santa Barbara—led deputies to a specific room at Motel 6, where Santa Barbarans 23-year-old Felipe Barrera and 20-year-old Kamila Cerda were found in possession of stolen property as well as another stolen car sitting in the motel parking lot.
All five suspects were transported to Santa Barbara County Jail, where Connell was booked on felony evasion, possession of stolen property, conspiracy, auto theft, unlawful use of a credit card, and resisting arrest, with his bail set at $75,000.
Gutierrez was booked for possession of stolen property, conspiracy, auto theft, unlawful use of a credit card, and resisting, with his bail set at $20,000.
Barrera was charged with possession of stolen property, conspiracy, and auto theft, with his bail set at $25,000. For her part, Alvarez was booked on possession of stolen property, conspiracy, auto theft, unlawful use of a credit card, and resisting, with her bail set at $20,000.
Certa was booked on charges of possession of stolen property, conspiracy, and auto theft, with her bail similarly set at $20,000.
Photos: Courtesy Santa Barbara County Jail Booking