Jailed: Drugs farmer caught napping in Telford house full of cannabis plants

A cannabis 'gardener' was caught asleep at a house full of illegal plants with an estimated street value of almost £50,000.

The cannabis farm in a house in Leegomery. Pic: @TelfordCops
The cannabis farm in a house in Leegomery. Pic: @TelfordCops

Ergys Shpellzaj, an Albanian national, was discovered asleep along with more than 100 plants in varying stages of growth at a property, in Halifax Drive, Leegomery, Telford.

Police officers from Hadley and Leegomery Safer Neighbourhood team along with colleagues from Donnington, a local policing priority team and detectives armed with a warrant carried out a raid at the premises following a tip-off.

Prosecuting barrister Mr Mark Brookes said: "They went there due to intelligence that cannabis was being grown inside the premises. Inside were 58 plants of significant maturity. They had been set up in five rooms in the house. The electricity had been bypassed at the meter and connected to the mains.

"On entry they found the defendant sleeping. There was a bed set up in the kitchen and clear signs of him living there. There was evidence of food and two mobile phones were charging."

Mr Brookes said a West Mercia Police drugs expert identified a total of 101 plants in various stages of growth and it was her view that the combined estimated street value was between £16,240 and £48,720.

He said 24-year-old Shpellzaj told the investigating officers that he had arrived in the country in a lorry illegally. He said he was based in London at first and that had incurred £22,000 in debts to be repaid to the those who helped him get here. He was initially told he would be given car wash work, but he was driven to the house in Telford where the cannabis was.

"He said he knew precisely what they would do because in his words 'there was a lot of grass'. He indicated that he was not allowed to leave. If he did they would find him and his family. He was very scared. His role was watering the plants and turning on the lights twice a day. He had no other knowledge about the equipment and how it was set up.

"He was charged and brought to court the following day," Mr Brookes said.

Mitigating barrister Holly-Louise Kilbey told Shrewsbury Crown Court: "His aim in coming here was for a better life."

"He is not an habitual drug grower. He made full admissions during his police interview."

Shpellzaj admitted one offence of cannabis production at a previous hearing.

Judge Peter Barrie said: "I accept your role was limited to that of gardener. I accept that you felt under pressure, although it is pressure you brought on yourself by illegal entry. There has been a marked increase in these sorts of offences in recent months."

"The offence is so serious that it can only be properly dealt with by a prison sentence."

He jailed him for 12 months. Shpellzaj must serve at least half the term then a period of 12 months of post release supervision, at which point he may be detained by the Home Office immigration service. The judge ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the drugs and equipment. Shpellzaj must also pay the victims surcharge.

Earlier this month Arvan Ivani, 23, and Shpresim Sanaj, 27, also from Albania, were jailed for similar offences for a total of 19 months after being caught in premises, in Haybridge Avenue, Hadley, with an estimated £109,000 worth of plants last October.

Other cases are in the pipeline after similar raids in Bridgnorth and Telford.

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