Southern California -- this just in

Category: Drugs

$4 million in marijuana found on Santa Barbara beach


This post has been corrected; see note at bottom for details.

Santa Barbara County officials discovered $4-million worth of marijuana next to a boat Sunday at Arroyo Quemada Beach.

Officials said they found an estimated 2,000 pounds of marijuana wrapped in plastic bags on the beach.

Santa Barbara County sheriff's officials "located an apparently abandoned 30-foot “Panga” style boat with two outboard engines and 20+ fuel containers on board," the department said in a news release.  "Sheriff’s detectives located a significant amount of evidence that was consistent with marijuana smuggling activities, including trash and debris that was strewn about the beach and nearby coastal access trails."

Officials are now testing the drugs and other evidence found at the scene.

This is the second big pot discovery this month in Santa Barbara County.

Earlier this  month, marijuana with an estimated value of at least $1 million was discovered Thursday near a boat that had crashed on a beach near Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The marijuana was found near an overturned boat north of Wall Beach and was removed by Homeland Security investigators.

[For the record, March 18, 8:33 a.m.: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated the marijuana was found at Arroyo Camada Beach; it was at Arroyo Quemada Beach.]


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Photo: Santa Barbara County sheriff's officials released images of the seized boat and marijuana as part of their news release about the seizure.

12-year-old who gave pot brownie to kids at school arrested

A 12-year-old Orange County boy has been arrested for allegedly taking a pot brownie to his elementary school and making seven students sick.

Costa Mesa Lt. Greg Scott said officers arrested the Pomona Elementary School sixth-grader who shared a marijuana-laced brownie with his peers Tuesday, according to the Daily Pilot.

When the student returned to school Thursday, administrators questioned him and found a small bag of marijuana in his backpack. Administrators confiscated the drug and notified Costa Mesa detectives, Scott said.

The boy was arrested at home Thursday for misdemeanor possession of marijuana on campus. He has since been released to his parents.

The students who ate the brownie were briefly hospitalized Tuesday before being released to their parents.


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Gavin Smith had relationship with drug dealer's wife, police say

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Gavin Smith had relationship with drug dealer's wife, police say

Missing Fox movie executive Gavin Smith had a relationship with the wife of a convicted drug dealer who is now a person of interest in Smith’s disappearance, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials say.

Smith, 57, has been missing since May 2012. At a press conference Thursday, Lt. Dave Dolson said Smith had a relationship with Chandrika Creech, the wife of John Creech, who is serving eight years in Los Angeles County’s Men’s Central Jail.

Smith and Chandrika Creech apparently met in rehab. Sheriff’s officials would not comment on the nature of their relationship and said only that Creech’s husband is a person of interest in Smith’s disappearance. John Creech has not spoken with detectives.

Authorities now believe Smith was murdered. Investigators found Smith’s Mercedes-Benz last month in a Simi Valley storage facility. Officials said evidence found inside the car, along with witness statements, lead them to believe Smith is dead.

No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing, a department official said Friday.

Chandrika Creech has spoken to investigations on many occasions, Dolson said. He declined to say what information she provided.

In the months after Smith was last seen, officials insisted the case remained a missing-person investigation, even as Creech’s home and vehicle were searched.

Smith, a former UCLA basketball player who worked in Fox's movie distribution department, left a friend's home in Ventura County's Oak Park neighborhood the night of May 1. Wearing purple athletic pants belonging to one of his sons, Smith drove away in his Mercedes, leaving behind his cellphone charger, shaving kit and other items.

Continue reading »

L.A. Votes: Runoff rivals dash for cash; Villaraigosa says budget not so bleak

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa -- Irfan Khan--Los Angeles Times
The two candidates who earned a spot in the runoff to be Los Angeles’ next mayor have little time to savor their victory. Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti must immediately start raising money, because unlike in state and federal elections, they were prohibited for raising money for the general election during the primary. Election Memo

And they weren’t allowed to reserve any of the millions of dollars they raised in the primary for the runoff, meaning the candidates started raising new funds within hours of the polls closing Tuesday. Garcetti sent off an email missive before he went to sleep that night, and also one targeting donors who had contributed the maximum of $1,300 in the primary. The morning after, Greuel launched a 72-hour grass-roots fundraising drive urging supporters to “be one of the first” to support the city controller in the general election.

But the independent committees backing their bids face no such restrictions, giving Greuel both a potential financial boost and a messaging problem. The main independent group supporting her is up-and-running, but largely backed by city employee unions, a connection that troubles some voters.

FULL COVERAGE: L.A.'s race for mayor

The termed-out mayor that Greuel and Garcetti are vying to replace, Antonio Villaraigosa has not weighed in on the contest, but said Thursday that he plans to take a “real close look” at both of the candidates.

Villaraigosa was a major proponent of a measure--rejected by voters--to increase the sales tax. Backers said the half-cent hike was vital to avoiding cuts to critical city services. On Thursday, two days after the measure's defeat, Villaraigosa said the city’s deficit didn’t look so bad after all.

The Times looked at where the sales-tax proposal, Proposition A, succeeded and where it failed among city voters. Ben Welsh, an editor with the Times Data Desk, broke down the split.

-- Seema Mehta

Comments, questions or tips on city elections? Tweet me at @LATSeema

Photo: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Credit: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times

Marijuana worth $1 million found on beach near Vandenberg AFB

Authorities have confirmed that a large amount of marijuana with an estimated value of at least $1 million was discovered Thursday near a boat that had crashed on a beach near Vandenberg Air Force Base.

According to a statement from Vandenberg officials, the marijuana was found near an overturned boat north of Wall Beach and was removed by Homeland Security investigators, who assumed control of the investigation about 5:40 p.m.  

Authorities were developing a plan to remove the boat, fuel and outboard motor, the statement said.

It was not immediately clear if anyone had been injured or arrested in the incident.

Before the arrival of Homeland Security investigators, Vandenberg officials said they were continuing to  "search for potential suspects.” Base personnel were told to avoid the area and contact base security right away if they see suspicious people or activity, officials said.


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Photo: A marijuana plant is grown in the closet of a Southern California home. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

41 arrested in oxycodone raids in L.A., Washington state

More than 40 people were arrested Thursday in Southern California and Washington state as federal agents and local police executed dozens of search warrants in a massive probe into the illegal trade of the narcotic oxycodone hydrochloride.

In early morning raids, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Los Angeles Police Department, working with the Spokane Regional Drug Task Force, targeted what authorities described as a criminal  organization that funneled large quantities of the prescription medication illegally across the West Coast.

The move comes as the nation experiences a jump in deaths due to prescription overdoses.

A 32-count federal indictment handed down in Washington in January charged most of those arrested with a variety of crimes, including distribution, possession and attempted possession of oxycodone hydrochloride -- the generic version of the brand name drug OxyContin -- in violation of the Federal Controlled Substances Act.

Continue reading »

Driver, 37 pounds of coke seized at U.S.-Mexico border

Confiscated cocaine seized in Calexico.
A Mexican citizen was arrested on suspicion of trying to sneak in nearly 37 pounds of cocaine at a border checkpoint in Calexico, federal authorities said Thursday.

The cocaine, worth an estimated $440,000 on the street, was sealed in 15 packages hidden in the quarter panels of the red 1999 Jeep Cherokee, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The 29-year-old Calexico resident driving the jeep was stopped Tuesday morning after a customs officer "noticed the driver was nervous," the department said in a statement.

Officers used drug-sniffing dogs and X-ray equipment to find the coke.

The man was turned over to federal investigators and was being held at the Imperial County Jail, authorities said. His name was not released. 


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Photo: Confiscated cocaine. Credit: U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Doctor who lost license offers drug advice to FDA

At a hearing this week in Bethesda, Md., on reducing fatal prescription overdoses, a federal panel heard from an East Bay man identified as a “clinician” that the real problem was that some doctors weren’t prescribing enough drugs.
Trouble was, Edward Manougian was not a clinician— not any more.

He lost his California medical license over the very practices on which he lectured the panel of U.S. Food & Drug Administration officials.

The 83-year-old Berkeley man pointed with a yardstick to a hand-drawn diagram sketching his theory on the “pathophysiology of pain.” Some patients require high doses of powerful painkillers known as opioids, he said. He faulted doctors who fail to “treat them correctly”--forcing patients to turn to emergency rooms and the streets for drugs.

Many opioid overdoses, he said, were caused by "patients not getting the right dose and having to get drugs off the street.”

His testimony, submitted via videotape for the hearing that ended Friday, was webcast live by the agency. The FDA does not screen people who request to speak at public hearings and allows them to identify themselves, a spokeswoman said.

Manougian did not say that the Medical Board of California had revoked his license in October after finding that the combinations and doses of drugs he ordered for several patients were dangerous and demonstrated gross negligence.

Two of his patients in their 30s fatally overdosed on painkillers after he gave them prescriptions for the same type of drugs, Medical Board records show.

Manougian asserted in his defense to the state board that he was following his “pathophysiology of pain” theory, the same one that he presented to the FDA. A medical board expert called the theory "supposition" and said that "it does not represent any of the current science or knowledge of chronic pain."
In recommending license revocation, Administrative Law Judge Mary-Margaret Anderson said drugs prescribed by Manougian  have ended up on the street.

“With blinders firmly in place," she wrote, "he conducted his practice in accordance with his own idiosyncratic views and methods, in disregard of the safety of his patients and the public health."
In an interview Friday, Manougian maintained that his care was appropriate. He has filed an appeal in an attempt to win his license back.

For now, though, Manougian is barred from practicing medicine or calling himself a doctor in California, said Lynda Gledhill, a spokeswoman for the state attorney general’s office.
In December, two months after he lost his license, Manougian said he registered to testify at the FDA hearing as "a physician, a clinician."
"I'm a doctor, and my license has not really ended yet," he said, because his case is on appeal. "I'm a clinician. I'm just not an active clinician."

Marvin Firestone, a physician and Manougian's lawyer, said he "certainly couldn't put himself out as a physician with an unrestricted license at this time." He added: "Probably the correct thing to say is, 'I have been a clinician for 55 years,' putting it in the past tense."


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After drug complaints, Insomniac moves rave out of San Bernardino

Fans listen to Nas at the Rock the Bells festival at the San Manuel Amphitheater on Aug. 20, 2011. Beyond Wonderland is being moved there from the National Orange Show Events Center. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

After complaints about drug use and noise, Insomniac Inc., a Los Angeles rave company, is moving its Beyond Wonderland rave out from its longtime home in San Bernardino, but some neighbors of the new venue were angry about the change.

La-me-rave-san-bernardino-gInsomniac decided to shift the March 16 rave from the National Orange Show Events Center near downtown San Bernardino to the San Bernardino County-owned San Manuel Amphitheater in Devore after tensions with Police Chief Robert Handy and residents. It stages at least two other raves a year at the events center.

Handy said the raves have been marred by increases in crime, along with drug and alcohol abuse among concert-goers. He said undercover officers who attend the raves are routinely offered drugs for sale.

TIMES INVESTIGATION: A fatal toll on concertgoers as raves boost cities' income

In September, an officer was injured while trying to arrest a suspected Ecstasy dealer at an Insomniac rave, the chief added. He also said Insomniac refused a police request to lower the music volume at an October rave after neighbors complained.

"That's where we reached the impasse," Handy said. "They said, 'We will do what we have to do to continue to make a profit,'" Handy said.

Insomniac spokeswoman Jennifer Forkish denied that the company is relocating Beyond Wonderland because of poor relations with the city. She said in an email response to questions that Handy's statements about the October concert were "categorically untrue."

GRAPHIC: Read about 14 ravegoers who died in drug-related circumstances

"We are left to believe that the police chief must have been misinformed," Forkish said. "His comments are his personal perspective based upon secondhand information [that] in no way reflects what occurs at our festivals."

The County Board of Supervisors voted 3 to 2 last week to allow raves at the amphitheater for the first time. County officials said the venue manager, Live Nation Entertainment Inc., the Beverly Hills-based concert and ticketing giant, and the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department would deploy extra security staff and sheriff's deputies to keep the concert safe and orderly.

Continue reading »

Ventura County officials crack down on 'bath salts'

Ventura County District Attorney Greg Totten in 2004. Credit: Los Angeles Times

When a woman smashed into a Moopark home with her car last June, police at first thought they were dealing with a garden-variety DUI.

Instead, the incident led Ventura County prosecutors to file charges against three alleged distributors of "bath salts" --  designer drugs that can cause psychotic episodes and are readily available in many head shops and on the Internet.

At a news conference Tuesday, Ventura County Dist. Atty. Greg Totten said the prosecution is likely the first of its kind in California. Cases involving bath salts have been difficult for prosecutors because manufacturers swiftly change the drugs' composition to stay ahead of legislation banning specific components.

The solution for Ventura County, Totten said, is to file "the same charges as if they were distributing and selling methamphetamine or ecstasy."

The local investigation led to Jonathan Kirk Riedel, in West Jordan, Utah. He has been extradited to Ventura County, where he is being held on $1 million bail, Totten said.

The other suspects are associated with two Doughmain head shops, in Moorpark and Thousand Oaks. They are Joshua Longfellow Wright, 36, and Brandon James Sarrail, 26.

"Bath salts" can be snorted, smoked or injected. They are also referred to with wink-and-a-nod designations like "ladybug attractants" or "window cleaners". They can come as pills, powders or liquids and often are packaged with names like "Bubbles" or "Vanilla Sky" that are thought to convey an exciting appeal. Some are marketed with images of popular cartoon figures, like Scooby-Doo.

Officials said the drugs cause long-lasting hallucinations and sometimes trigger violent outbursts. Raising body temperature, they can cause frantic users to remove their clothing. Authorities say the drugs are extremely addictive. 


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Photo: Ventura County Dist. Atty. Greg Totten in 2004. Credit: Los Angeles Times


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