Hartlepool cannabis farm had 139 plants worth almost £40,000 after suspicious neighbours called police
A cannabis farm “gardener” found tending a crop with a street value of almost £40,000 has been spared jail after being exploited by gangsters.
Bekim Zyberaj, 20, who entered the UK illegally from Albania, was discovered at a house in Grange Road, Hartlepool, which had been turned into a cannabis farm, in September.
Teesside Crown Court heard neighbours reported the house to police after becoming suspicious about the smell and people seen coming and going.
The court was told by the prosecution barrister: “Officers attended the address because there had been reports of a strong smell of cannabis coming from there.
"When they’ve attended they found a large cannabis farm in the four main bedrooms and the defendant was located and arrested."
She added: “There was 139 plants in total with a street value of £38,922.”
The electricity meter had been tampered with and bypassed, and there was hydroponic equipment to help the plants’ growth.
The prosecution barrister said the operation was capable of producing between £117,000 and £350,000 worth of cannabis a year from subsequent plants.
When quizzed by police, Zyberaj said he was placed in the house by others because he owed money.
He pleaded guilty to production of cannabis.
Stephen Constantine, defending, said Zyberaj had previously worked in construction in Manchester and could go and stay with his cousin in London if freed.
The judge, Recorder Andrew Smith, said it was an enterprise “capable of producing large amounts for commercial supply”.
But he added Zyberaj had been exploited by criminal gangs responsible for the cannabis farm.
Recorder Smith said: “It’s serious enough for custody because of the large amounts of money which are capable of being made by the criminal gangs involved.
"That’s reinvested back into other criminal enterprises and produces a lot of misery for people like yourself and others involved.
"Also it brings an undesirable element into often suburban areas where these illicit operations are taking place, and people who just want to go about their law-abiding lives have to see the comings and goings of people, the ones behind the operation, often serious gangsters who are involved in this.”
Zyberaj, of The Ridings, London, was given eight months prison suspended for 12 months and must do 100 hours unpaid community work.
The drugs and equipment will be destroyed.