Jailed former care home boss allowed his 40-bed Hartlepool home to be used for £400,000 cannabis farm
A former care home boss jailed for health and safety breaches allowed his home to be used for a major cannabis farm worth more than £400,000 amid pressure from loan sharks.
Disgraced businessman Matt Matharu, 56, was jailed for eight months in 2015 after being found guilty of health and safety breaches following a pensioner’s death at Parkview Residential Care Home, in Seaton Carew, in 2012.
Following his release from prison and being declared bankrupt in 2016, he got into debt with loan sharks, Teesside Crown Court heard.
It led to drug bosses pressuring him into using his 40-bedroom Victorian manor house family home in Elwick Road for a cannabis farm.
The court heard Matharu’s wife and children did not know what was happening as the drugs were grown in a large outbuilding where they believed building work was taking place.
Police discovered it in January 2018 when they responded to criminals armed with weapons trying to burgle it.
Matharu was present and claimed he was solely responsible for all the cannabis.
Paul Cross, prosecuting, said: "The cannabis growing operation was in a separate part of the building away from the living accommodation.
"As well as the initial grow detected there was a further grow behind a false wall and police also found 46 ready prepared deals of cannabis.
"This was a substantial cannabis growing operation. The total value of the drugs recovered was £416,000.”
Police believed the drugs were to be sold to street dealers.
Matharu had photos of the cannabis on his phone and had bought some equipment for the growth.
Mr Cross added his previous prison sentence “plainly caused him huge financial difficulties”.
It was said Matharu borrowed £6,000 but he claimed he owed £18,000.
Steven Reed, defending, said in mitigation: “Having been declared bankrupt he was in an incredibly perilous situation which affected his mental health at the time.
“He was unable to pay the money back and the situation spiralled very quickly out of his control.
"His position is he was exploited by those he was in debt to and that he was intimidated into allowing his property to be used by them for the purpose of growing cannabis.”
Mr Reed added Matharu, whose address was listed on court documents as Eldon Grove, Hartlepool, had “no control” over the growing operation and had lost his home and marriage as a result.
But the judge, Recorder Nathan Adams, said: “You were aware of the size of the operation.”
Recorder Adams said he could suspend an 18-month prison sentence due to the delay in the case getting to court, Matharu’s lack of similar offences and because he was said to pose a low risk of reoffending.
Matharu, who admitted production of a class B drug, was also ordered to complete 120 hours of unpaid community work and 20 rehabilitation activity days.
Recorder Adams said: "I hope very much that will be an effective deterrent and we won’t see you again in these courts.”
Matharu was jailed in February 2015 after Parkview resident Norah Elliott, 90, climbed out of a bedroom window and fell to her death.
He was also banned from being a company director for nine years in March 2020 after an investigation discovered he was running another firm without court permission.