A DRUG farmer who set up one of the biggest cannabis factories ever seen in Hartlepool failed to appear before a judge to answer for his crimes.
Robert Thomas, 44, was due to appear at Teesside Crown Court after admitting to cultivating cannabis worth almost £200,000 in a set-up that has been described as sophisticated and professional.
The nine-month operation saw Thomas bypass the electricity meter to power the hi-tech set-up at his home in Holt Street, Hartlepool.
Crown court Judge Peter Bowers demanded Thomas should appear to answer for his crimes and issued a warrant for his arrest that will not allow him to be freed on bail before his next appearance.
Thomas pleaded guilty to being concerned in the production of cannabis between January 1 and September 14 last year when he appeared in front of town magistrates.
He also admitted a charge of illegally abstracting £2,519 of electricity between the same date in connection with the growing operation.
Magistrates were forced to refer the case to the crown court because they felt their powers were not strong enough due to the huge potential value of the drugs and the possible prison sentence that Thomas could face.
During the previous magistrates’ court hearing, prosecutor Paul Power said: “This can only really be dealt with at Teesside Crown Court, the potential yield of the drugs is almost £200,000.
“It was a sophisticated, professional set up in a house where the defendant resided.”
The seizure is one of many that has seen thousands of pounds of cannabis taken off the streets of Hartlepool.
The Mail reported just yesterday that Hasan Savali was involved in one of the biggest cannabis operations in the town when he admitted to preparing £70,000 of the drug.
Savzali was arrested after police stormed into his house in Penryhn Street, off the town’s Elwick Road, and discovered a large amount of cannabis drying out in an upstairs bedroom.
Detectives at the time of the raid hailed the seizure as one of the biggest class B drug finds ever seen in Hartlepool.
This week Savzali, 28, confessed to having the drugs, weighing around 7kg, for supplying to others.
It came after Hartlepool Drugs Unit raided the house in Penrhyn Street at around 10.30am on Tuesday, January 22.
Cannabis was found drying in a front bedroom.