Illegal immigrant jailed over £100,000 Sunderland drugs farm

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NOSEY neighbours uncovered a £100,000 cannabis farm.

Police raided a property in St Mark’s Road, Sunderland, after people living nearby complained about the strong smell of the drug.

Officers found 329 plants growing in the loft on January 3.

At Newcastle Crown Court yesterday, Long Cao, who was caught trying to flee from the illegal farm, was jailed for 20 months.

The 34-year-old illegal immigrant had pleaded guilty to production of cannabis on the basis he was a gardener hired by others, working under orders to look after the plants.

Judge Brian Forster said: “The operation was so extensive that the smell of cannabis came from the farm and could be smelled in neighbouring streets.”

He told Cao: “You clearly found yourself in the hands of others, who were your gangmasters.

“There was no escape from your situation and you had little choice but to carry out the gardening work at the substantial cannabis farm.

“You followed a dream to find a new life in the UK. When you got here you found things were not as expected.”

The prison sentence means Cao, who lived in the property where the farm was installed, is likely to be deported.

The court heard he had fallen into £20,000 of debt by coming into the UK illegally from Vietnam in a lorry.

He told police he was being paid £1,000 per month to look after the farm.

Lewis Kerr, defending, said Cao left a wife and two young sons in his homeland, and only managed to pay off £6,000 of his debt in the four years he has been in Britain.

Mr Kerr said: “He wishes to return to his family.

“He understands now he was mistaken in his belief that moving to England and attempting to earn money here in this way was a viable option for him.”

Twitter: @sunderlandecho