A CANNABIS farm in a quiet street would have yielded riches of half a million pounds a year for a drugs gang, a court was told.
Cleveland Police were tipped-off because of a strong smell of cannabis coming from the house in Billingham.
When nobody answered the door officers forced their way inside and they discovered 210 plants in three growing areas and a Vietnamese illegal immigrant who was the live-in gardener.
Prosecutor Jenny Haigh told Teesside Crown Court that the professional set-up at the property in Balmoral Avenue, Billingham, would have yielded three crops a year worth £529,200.
The house’s windows had been blacked-out, the electricity supply had been bypassed and there were time switches to control the powerful lighting and heat lamps.
They arrested Than Va Ha, 18, who admitted looking after the plants and he said that he thought it was legal to grow them.
Ha told through an interpreter how he had been brought to Billingham a fortnight before he was discovered on May 16. He had false Vietnamese identity papers for a 17-year-old youth and he said that he was being paid for his work.
Miss Haigh said that Ha would be deported back to Vietnam, and the judge made an order for the destruction of the cannabis and the equipment.
Zoe Passfield, defending, said Ha initially maintained his claim that he thought that what he was doing was allowed in the UK, but on the day of his trial he accepted that if he put that defence it would inevitably be rejected by a jury.
She said he received some payment for watering and feeding the plants, adding: “He was perhaps exploited and naive to a certain degree.
“He was free to leave the house, but he spoke no English and he had nowhere to go.”
Judge Deborah Sherwin told him: “I have seen photographs of the cannabis farm and it was clearly a substantial affair.
“The likely yield from the plants could be hundreds of thousands of pounds.”
The judge added: “The sentence that I am passing means that because of the time you have already been in custody you will be deported back to Vietnam very soon.”
Ha was jailed for 10 months after he pleaded guilty to abstracting electricity and producing cannabis.