Vietnamese cannabis farmer was trafficked from Russia to grow £144,000 crop

Tankerville Street, Hartlepool.
Tankerville Street, Hartlepool.

A Vietnamese man who was caught running a £144,000 cannabis farm in a Hartlepool house told cops that he had arrived from Russia in a container.

The illegal immigrant was in charge of the second crop of the Class B drug being produced at the property worth £144,650.

Teesside Crown Court.

Teesside Crown Court.

The man, Au Nguyen, 23, said that he had been there for five months looking after the 262 plants which were spread over four rooms.

The judge at Teesside Crown Court said that it was a sophisticated set-up with the electricity supply bypassed, abstractor fans, and heating, lighting and irrigation systems.

Prosecutor Emma Atkinson said the house next door in Tankerville Street, Hartlepool, was also a cannabis farm when Cleveland Police raided them on May 3.

There were 186 plants in the second one, and it also had a Vietnamese live-in gardener called Nguyen but they were not connected.

Au Nguyen thanked Judge Peter Armstrong when he appeared for sentence over a videolink with Holme House Prison in Stockton.

Nguyen told police that initially he did not think that the plants were illegal.

Miss Atkinson said the case had been delayed after Nguyen claimed that he was a victim of being trafficked into the UK.

She said: "A decision could not be made on that by the authorities.

"In interview he said that he had come via Russia and brought in a container."

Andrew Rutter, defending, said Nguyen had been served with a deportation order while on remand in Holme House Prison.

Mr Rutter said it was powerful mitigation that Nguyen had pleaded guilty, and he had confessed that it was the second crop.

Judge Armstrong told him that his deportation status was a matter for the Border Agency.

The judge told him: "I sentence you on the basis that you played a lesser role in this, and I have to follow the sentencing guidelines which indicated that for the amount of cannabis and your role it is one of one year's custody.

"There are no aggravating factors because you have no previous convictions, and your main mitigation is that you pleaded guilty at the first opportunity. That means that the sentence can be reduced by one-third."

Nguyen, of Tankerville Street, Hartlepool, was jailed for eight months after he pleaded guilty to producing a Class B drug cannabis.