A YOUNG illegal immigrant put to work tending a £100,000 cannabis farm in a West Cumbria house has been jailed.
Carlisle Crown Court heard today (THURS) how 20-year-old Albanian national Albion Ukperaj had travelled to the UK from Hungary. He was then employed by crooks as a live-in gardener at the illegal drug operation inside a property in Brook Street, Flimby, in order to work off a £16,000 that the unlawful passage had incurred.
Police raided the address on May 29 and found a sophisticated growing operation which included ventilation and electrical equipment, and foil-lined walls, while the electricity supply had been bypassed.
Around 200 cannabis plants in various stages of growth were seized from a number of different rooms, and were given a preliminary valuation in the region of £100,000.
Neighbours had described seeing two other men arriving in a van two months earlier, and delivering a large amount of equipment to the house. Ukperaj, who had been promised gainful work from which he hoped to send cash to family back in Albania, had “kept himself to himself” while in Flimby, and was seen neatly dressed, visiting a local shop and buying both pizza and phone top-up cards.
A young man of previous good character, he pleaded guilty in court today to producing class B cannabis between March 1 and May 29.
Judge Andrew Jefferies QC concluded Ukperaj had played a lesser role in the illegal enterprise and that he was “hardly a free individual in the true sense of the word”.
But, ordering that he be detained in a young offenders’ institution for 11 months, Judge Jefferies told him: “You were effectively a live-in gardener for those who were running a larger drug supply conspiracy.
“Those who engage with criminals to enter this country must have some awareness that they may be required to engage in criminal activity once here.”
Judge Jefferies also ordered the forfeiture and destruction of all plants, paraphernalia and any mobile phones seized.