Man jailed after £50,000 Hartlepool cannabis farm raid
An illegal immigrant was found inside a cannabis farm at a house in Hartlepool during a police raid.
Gledis Gjoka from Albania tended dozens of plants worth thousands of pounds to pay off a £22,000 debt he owed to the people who brought him to the UK two months earlier.
Police uncovered the lucrative operation capable of producing more than £50,000 worth of drugs at a mid-terraced house in Harcourt Street, on September 23.
Maryam Ahmad, prosecuting, at Teesside Crown Court, said: “The police immediately found a cannabis farm in the property.
"There were a total of 64 plants within three rooms alongside cannabis cultivation equipment.”
A police drugs expert estimated the plants were capable of producing cannabis with a street value of between £17,920 and £53,760.
Ms Ahmad added: “The defendant arrived in the UK around two months earlier with a debt of around £22,000 to the people who brought him here.
"He tended the cannabis as a means of paying off the debt and was a gardener who did not have any stake in the plants themselves.”
She said while he played a smaller role, the enterprise was capable of producing significant quantities of cannabis for commercial sale.
Gjoka, 31, who was found in the kitchen of the house made no comment to all questions when police tried to interview him.
He had no previous convictions in this country.
All the drugs and equipment used in the farm were ordered to be seized and destroyed by the court.
Daniel Penman, mitigating, said: “He paid a great deal of money to come here in an attempt to better himself.
"Unfortunately, as is so often the case, he fell into the hands of criminals.”
He added his client has almost served the equivalent of a six-month prison sentence while being held on remand.
Mr Penman said Gjoka wishes to stay in the UK and work, possibly as a lorry driver, but it is not known if he will be deported upon his release.
The judge, Recorder Peter Makepeace, sentenced him to seven and a half months in prison.
He said: “I’m satisfied that you played a lesser role in this offending.
"I accept the Crown’s assertion that the operation clearly was capable of producing significant quantities for commercial use.”