Author: Philip Cullinane
Two men have been jailed after a drugs factory was uncovered inside a town centre building.
Vietnamese nationals Cam Nguyen, aged 44, and Hoang Nguyen, aged 22, were hiding inside the house in Church Street, Stoke, when officers found 140 cannabis plants during a raid.
The pair, who had both entered the county illegally, were employed to look after the plants.
Prosecutor Joanne Wallbanks told Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court: “Police were called to an address in Church Street, Stoke, and found 140 young small cannabis plants and all of the usual paraphernalia.
“They found these two defendants hiding in the house.
“Both were arrested and one was interviewed. He said he came up from Birmingham, watered the plants once and had no idea it was illegal. He said he did not know what cannabis was.
“Two phones were recovered but the numbers for the employers were deleted. The other defendant was not interviewed.”
Both men went on to plead guilty to producing cannabis.
Stuart Muldoon, representing, Hoang Nguyen, said: “Hoang has been in the UK for 12 months on the promise of work.
“He had been working in nail bars and takeaways. He came to Stoke from Birmingham and was collected by a western male and taken to an address and told to stay there and look after plants for a small amount of money.
“He came to the UK because where he grew up there was no work and he was sending money back to family in Vietnam.
“He knows that he is likely to be deported.
“His was a lesser role but there was some small financial gain but he would not be living a lavish lifestyle off the profits. There is an element of exploitation.”
Martin Bloor, mitigating for Cam Nguyen, said: “He was told to bring in boxes and take plants out of the boxes, it was at this stage that he knew what he had got himself into. His was a lesser role.”
Judge Paul Glenn sentenced both men to 12 months in jail and will face deportation once they are released.
He said: “A property in Church Street was being used as a cannabis farm.
“Work was taking place in that bedroom there was an open tool kit and a step ladder. The cannabis was for commercial use.
“There was a degree of exploitation. You were not the organisers and the profits were not going into your pockets.
“Both of you are in the UK unlawfully and have no right to remain.”