A CANNABIS farmer tending a grow with the potential to make tens of thousands of pounds tried to flee from the back door when police visited the property.
Dhimitri Hoxha was arrested, however, before police searched the premises, in Hedley Terrace, South Hetton, during the raid on January 27.
Durham Crown Court was told the terraced house was converted for use as a, “sophisticated” cannabis farm, with officers in total recovering 204 plants in different stages of growth from multiple rooms
Shaun Dryden, prosecuting, said 56 mature plants were found in one room, 56 at a lesser stage of maturity in another room, while 92 juvenile plants were also recovered from the property.
In the search £280 in notes was also found in the living room.
Mr Dryden said a police drugs expert estimated the extractor fans, lighting and watering equipment being used in the operation would have cost about £8,300 to set up.
Depending on the success of the plant growth it was capable of producing between two and eight kilograms of cannabis in between two and three harvests a year.
Mr Dryden said the potential was to net between £41,000 and £124,000 in street sale values, between £26,000 and £79,000 in wholesale values or even with a net yield ranging from £10,000 to £40,000 in bulk sale.
When interviewed Hoxha made no replies to all questions, but after being charged he made the comment that he was forced to work at the property.
Mr Dryden said inquiries were made with the Home Office as to his status in this country and it was not thought that he was the victim of human trafficking, as he had received some financial benefit for his role in the operation.
The 20-year-old defendant, speaking through a Greek interpreter, pleaded guilty to producing a controlled drug of class B.
Penny Hall, in mitigation, said he is of previous good character and he remains a still very young man who was performing a role in someone else’s operation.
“He wishes to apologise to the court for his conduct and say he regrets becoming involved in this criminal activity.
“The reality is that he needed the money to help his family and he did not realise how serious this was.”
Miss Hall said the defendant had not been able to plead previously to the charge as there had been a mix-up over which language he required assistance with, via an interpreter.
Recorder Carl Gumsley said Hoxha became involved in this operation for financial gain.
“Had this not been stopped by police intervention it had the potential to yield a considerable amount of money and put a large amount of illegal drugs onto the street.”
He imposed a 20-month prison sentence and also ordered forfeiture and destruction of the seized cannabis plants and paraphernalia recovered from the raided premises.