Correctional officer 1 of 4 arrested in drug crimes

tmiller@mercedsunstar.comAugust 23, 2013 

— A Merced County correctional officer was arrested this week on suspicion of illegally purchasing prescription pills, among other accusations.

Micah Imler, 34, was taken into custody as part of a larger drug investigation launched by the Merced County Sheriff's Department — the agency that employs him. Three additional suspects were taken in, according to Deputy Delray Shelton, sheriff's spokesman.

During their investigation, deputies on Tuesday were on their way to serve a search warrant and spotted Imler and his girlfriend, Bethany Holcomb, 27, of Merced, inside a parked car in front of a home in the 100 block of East 18th Street.

Chantella Delfina Ganoza, 32, of Merced was seen leaning into the car, selling prescription drugs to Imler and Holcomb, authorities said. Deputies arrived and searched the vehicle, finding a .45 caliber handgun and Percocet pills. In addition, Imler and Holcomb's 15-month-old baby was in the car, Shelton said.

Inside the East 18th Street residence where Ganoza lived, deputies said they found an array of illegally obtained prescription pills.

Richard Jones, 26, of Merced, was in the home with Ganoza and Jones' two children, ages 2 and 3. The children were placed in the care of Merced County Child Protective Services.

Imler was booked at the Merced County Jail on suspicion of selling drugs on or near school grounds, willful harm or injury to a child likely to produce great bodily injury or death, being armed with a firearm in a drug offense, illegal possession or purchasing specific controlled classified drugs, illegally transporting, selling or furnishing controlled classified substances and illegal possession of specific controlled classified drugs.

Imler was released after posting $50,000 bail.

He was hired by the county as an extra-help security attendant in February 2006. He was hired as an extra-help correctional officer in May 2007, and became a full-time correctional officer in January 2008, according to Mike North, Merced County management analyst.

Imler has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation.

Holcomb was arrested on suspicion of possession of a narcotic controlled substance, willful harm or injury to a child likely to produce great bodily injury or death and illegally transporting, selling or furnishing controlled classified substances.

Ganoza was arrested on suspicion of possession of a narcotic controlled substance, willful harm or injury to a child likely to produce great bodily injury or death and illegally transporting, selling or furnishing controlled classified substances.

Jones was arrested on suspicion of selling drugs on or near school grounds, willful harm or injury to a child likely to produce great bodily injury or death and possession of a narcotic controlled substance.

The other suspects have also posted bail.

Reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or by email at tmiller@mercedsunstar.com.

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