Photo: Charles Romanus, Brandon Topete and Henry Hewitt
Santa Barbara County – Most pre-school operators are more concerned with the safety of their playground equipment and sandbox facilities than they are about suppressing tell-tale fumes emanating from their garage drug manufacturing equipment.
But 52-year-old Charles Romanus of Santa Barbara is not, it seems, your average pre-school operator. According to Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department Public Information Officer Kelly Hoover, Romanus is a convicted felon who was operating the Harmony Pre-School where nearly a dozen 2-5-year-olds are currently enrolled.
Setting his criminal history aside—as, apparently, various licensing agencies have done—Romanus now stands accused of multiple felonies including the manufacture of methamphetamine “just feet away” from where his students attended school.
It was on the morning of December 31st, 2018 when SBSD Narcotics Detectives arrived at Romanus’ residence with a search warrant in hand. Their tour of the property lead to the discovery of a firearm, chemicals, numerous syringes and additional drug paraphernalia.
As such searches often do, one thing lead to another and the cops then found “a clandestine drug lab” immediately adjacent to the pre-school facilities which have been operating on the same property for more than a decade.
Romanus was promptly taken into custody and transported to Santa Barbara County Jail, where he was charged with illegally manufacturing narcotics, violation of the Drug Trafficking and Schoolyard Act of 1988, child endangerment, operating and maintaining a place for narcotics use, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He remains in custody with his bail set at $100,000.
Arrested along with Romanus were 32-year-old Santa Barbara resident Henry Hewitt, charged with false impersonation and forgery, and 24-year-old Goleta resident Brandon Topete, charged on a no-bail robbery warrant, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of an injecting device.
Photos: Courtesy Santa Barbara County Jail Booking