Photo: Honey oil lab weapons
Santa Barbara County – The community of Montecito, famous for its celebrity residents of the Oprah Winfrey-Jeff Bridges-George Lucas ilk, is hardly the place that comes to mind as a hotbed of illegal drug production and sales. It may be time to set aside that Chamber of Commerce perception.
When the Thomas Fire—the largest wildfire in California history—ravaged the mountains just north of Montecito in December, 2017, mandatory evacuations of all residential and commercial areas throughout the community were enforced.
While California National Guard troops and Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department deputies went door-to-door to ensure the safety of anyone in the exclusive Bella Vista Drive area close to the raging fire lines, they discovered one residence that piqued their interest.
According to SBSD Public Information Officer Kelly Hoover, while deputies were securing the premises of the home, they discovered significant evidence of “a clandestine drug laboratory.”
The exigencies of the rapidly-advancing wildfire prevented further investigation at the time, but the residents were identified as 44-year-old Sebastian Robaut and 36-year-old Elizabeth Bell, who were renting the home in the exclusive neighborhood with the purpose of “facilitating the illegal manufacturing of Butane Honey Oil.”
Once the threat of imminent immolation passed, deputies returned with search warrants and gathered additional evidence, while other search warrants were obtained and served upon the suspects’ “second residence” in Los Angeles’ Hollywood Hills area.
That search led to the discovery of “approximately 23.8 pounds of finished BHO and $30,000 in cash, believed to be the profits of their illegal enterprise.” Along with the drug operation, the cops also found an arsenal of weapons that included high-capacity magazines and assault rifles.
Once all facets of the multi-jurisdictional investigation were complete, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s detectives arrested Robaut and Bell on charges of manufacturing honey oil and conspiracy, with their bail set at $75,000. Both quickly posted bond and were released.
On March 16th, SBSD detectives made contact with Robaut and Bell, booking them into Santa Barbara County Jail and filing a criminal complaint with the Santa Barbara County District Attorney, calling for charges against Robaut of possession of marijuana for sales, conspiracy, possession and manufacture of a controlled substance for sales, possession of an assault rifle and high capacity magazines, and possession of a controlled substance with a loaded firearm.
The charges recommended against Bell include manufacturing a controlled substance, possession of marijuana for sales, and criminal conspiracy.
Photos: Courtesy Santa Barbara County Sheriffs