Photo: Joshua Draper and Elise Main
Ventura County – As if the December 2017 Thomas Fire—which burned 280,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,000 homes from Ventura through Carpinteria and Montecito all the way north to Santa Barbara—wasn’t traumatic enough, victims of that conflagration now appear to be the targets of burglars eager to steal any personal property remaining in those communities.
According to Ventura County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Sgt. Vince Alvarez, Santa Paula area victims who lost their home in the Thomas Fire had been storing personal belongings in a detached garage on their property while they were “forced to move to a different location in the area.” For the past year, those folks frequently “returned to the garage to check on their property.”
In October of 2018, however, the victims saw that their garage had been forcibly entered. “The lock to a door was cut and several valuables were taken,” which prompted a report of the theft to the Santa Clara Valley Sheriff’s Station. The ensuing investigation revealed that several of the stolen items “were sold at a business in the City of Ventura.” That information enabled detectives to identify Draper and Main as suspects.
On the morning of April 3rd, deputies attached to the VCSD Gang Unit and the Fillmore Detective Bureau served search warrants on the residence of Draper and Main, as well as at a storage locker registered to them in the City of Santa Paula. At both locations, “several valuable construction tools and other property” belonging to the victims was discovered.
Draper and Main were taken into custody and transported to Ventura County Jail, where they were booked on charges of possession of stolen property, being under the influence of a controlled substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia, with bail set in the amount of $300,000 each.
Photos: Courtesy Ventura County Jail Booking