Glendale man arrested in illegal Montecito cannabis operation

A Glendale man is behind bars after Santa Barbara County Sheriff's officials raided two illegal cannabis processing sites in Montecito and city of Carpinteria on June 4.

Vardges Babayan, 41, was part of a group of 15 Armenian labor workers that were in the process of trimming cannabis at a processing site located on Monte Cristo Lane in Montecito when deputies served a search warrant at that location.

The Sheriff's Office says the cannabis originated from an illegal indoor cultivation site in the 4200 block of Carpinteria Avenue in the city of Carpinteria, which authorities also raided and seized more than 1,900 cannabis plants in various stages of growth and approximately five pounds of processed cannabis.

The labor workers were hired by an out-of-county contractor, investigators say, but were unable to reach the owner of the service to determine if this was a legally operated service. The labor workers were not being held against their will and were not believed to be victims of human trafficking, the Sheriff's Office said.

However, Babayan was found to be in possession of a loaded and concealed Glock handgun and was arrested and booked into jail for possession of a loaded firearm.

Authorities seized about 100 pounds of processed cannabis and packaging and sales paraphernalia from the Montecito location, and cited 44-year-old Montecito resident Forrest Buchanan for cultivation and sales of cannabis without a state license.