(Clarification/intro: There are two Vargases in this story. Nathan Vargas, the ringleader of the recent marijuana raid, is from Las Vegas and is currently in critical condition at an out-of-county hospital with self-inflicted life-threatening head and face injuries. His brother and fellow suspect Jesus Vargas is in the Mendocino County Jail along with the third suspect, Roy Ha.)
Bail for Jesus Vargas, 41, and Roy Ha, the two men arrested last week for allegedly leading a ninja-style armed marijuana robbery and kidnapping in the Dos Rios area last week, have had their bail set at an almost unheard of $2.5 million each, although the only person seriously shot was one of the ninjas, and he shot himself. Neither Jesus Vargas nor Ha have criminal records.
Mr. Ha has been appointed Public Defender representation; Jesus Vargas has been appointed an alternate Public Defender.
According to witnesses and the Sheriff, three or four men armed with assault-style rifles and dressed in military style uniforms and body armor, were seen fleeing a marijuana robbery/kidnapping southbound on Highway 101 on Tuesday of September 27 in two vehicles, a black Chevrolet Tahoe and a gray Toyota Tacoma.
Spotted by a CHP officer on Highway 101, the Tahoe then lead police on a very high speed chase down Highway 101, east onto Highway 20, and finally up a dirt road where the Tahoe ran out of road and broke down as the CHP officer broke off the dangerous chase. Its occupants, were soon taken into custody by a helicopter-guided SWAT team that had been quickly organized in response to the high-speed chase.
At around the same time in another nearby location, a deputy conducted a traffic stop on the Tacoma and arrested the driver, Jesus Vargas, one of the accused robbers.
Meanwhile, back at the Tahoe, “A short time later a few gunshots were heard and then a person was heard screaming,” according to the Sheriff’s presser. “Sometime thereafter, law enforcement personnel on the search perimeter were contacted by two adult males. Deputies learned the adult males had been kidnapped during the armed robbery and had been bound by zip-ties and their heads covered by some type material after trying to escape. They reported the Chevrolet Tahoe had become disabled on the dirt road and one of the adult male victims was shot in the back while trying to escape. The adult victims reported that the two suspects had fled on foot, were armed with assault style rifles and clothed in professional-grade body armor. The adult male victim with the gunshot wound to the back of his shoulder was transported by air ambulance to an out of county hospital for medical treatment.”
As a helicopter tracked one of the suspects in the wooded terrain uphill from the disabled Chevrolet Tahoe, that suspect, later identified as Roy Ha, of Las Vegas, surrendered to the SWAT team.
Sometime thereafter, several more gunshots were heard which were attributed to the second suspect as the helicopter hovered over the confused scene.
The aerial observer then radioed the SWAT team that a third suspect, later identified as Nathan Vargas, also of Las Vegas, had possibly suffered a self inflicted gunshot wound but was still alive and should be considered armed and dangerous.
But he wasn’t armed or dangerous. In fact, when the SWAT team got to him they saw that he had shot himself in the head but was still alive. Vargas was helicoptered out of County for treatment where it was discovered that he had put the gun under his chin and fired upwards in a botched suicide attempt, destroying his chin, nose and face and blinding him, but not killing him. Vargas is reportedly still alive but his prognosis is said to be poor.
Not surprisingly, given the Dos Rios address of the initial crime and its circumstances, deputies soon declared, “It appears the robbery and kidnapping were connected to a marijuana sale/purchase transaction between the involved individuals.”
Right. Just another north county “marijuana sale/purchase transaction” gone bad — with one perp trying to kill himself after being cornered and with a $2.5 million bail for each of the other perps.
Jesus Vargas, 41, the uninjured Vargas, is from Riverside. He was booked on charges of robbery, kidnapping and criminal conspiracy. His associate, Roy Ha of Las Vegas was booked on charges of attempted murder (the shooting of the kidnapped robbery victim found near the Tahoe off Highway 20), kidnapping and criminal conspiracy.
Further investigation has revealed that Nathan Vargas, the man who shot himself in the face, was the brother-in-law of a Mr. Cabral, and the two had been engaged in a large scale pot grow and commercial sales operation with another Covelo-area man named Flores. For reasons as yet unknown, Nathan Vargas got into an argument with his brother-in-law, Cabral, and was involuntarily ejected from the pot operation.
Possessing detailed information about the Cabral-Flores pot operation, former partner Nathan Vargas decided that he wasn’t going to walk away from the family business uncompensated. He knew, among other things, that Cabral had some $700,000 in cash at the grow.
Nathan Vargas is a Nevada-licensed private investigator, and is listed on line as the owner of a business in Las Vegas called Tactical Security.
So, presumably using firearms, equipment and gear from his Tactical Security business, Nathan Vargas enlisted his brother Jesus, and his employee Roy Ha, and convinced them to join him in a raid on his brother-in-law's (and his former) pot business and pay himself and his heist helpers the $700k assumed to be at the robbery site. Mr. Ha may have been enlisted to participate in the Dos Rios raid because even with their gear and masks Nathan Vargas expected that his brother-in-law would probably have recognized his voice during the raid.
Investigators are continuing to look into the pot op to determine the source or “owner” of the $700k and then develop leads to a possibly larger, perhaps interstate, marijuana network. Why Nathan Vargas apparently tried to kill himself rather than face the consequences of his botched raid on his and his brother-in-law's business remains an open question.
Meanwhile Jesus Vargas and Roy Ha are scheduled to be arraigned on October 14. If they hire private attorneys they will presumably face pointed questions about the source of their funding.
This increasingly complicated marijuana case has occurred on top of two other high profile, violent incidents/investigations in September: the also pot-related Laytonville Home Invasion — whose alleged ringleader, Louis Bagliere, 73, of San Jose is still at large —and the cold-blooded murder and attempted murder of a married gay couple in Ukiah on September 23 by 68 year old Thomas Jones, the murdered man’s stepfather. The Jones case is being treated as a family property dispute gone bad, not a hate crime or marijuana transaction. It's unconfirmed, but we understand that Jones was sitting on his porch and handed a confession to arriving law enforcement, which should make his prosecution a simple task, quite possible a plea without trial.
Only a quarter into the fiscal year as of September 30, the token law enforcement overtime budget allocations which were low-balled simply to balance the county’s budget are already nearly depleted in both the Sheriff’s office and the DA’s office. These recent pot cases alone will require weeks if not months of further investigation.
And the Sheriff has already made it clear and public that he needs more money from the Supervisors. (See County Notes.)