Prison for gang with West Midlands drugs farm network

Members of a Vietnamese drug cartel with links to cannabis farms across the Black Country have been jailed.

Steven Lee, Lau Jay, Dong Phan and Luong Pham, along with the gang’s head of money laundering Binh Nguyen, set up a network of drugs factories in the West Midlands from headquarters in Birmingham.

They had links to premises in Smethwick, Brierley Hill, Great Barr and Wolverhampton and police said their criminal empire stretched from Kent to Nottinghamshire.

The group’s drug-dealing headquarters was the plush Hemisphere Apartment Complex near Edgbaston Cricket Ground, where they sourced properties, set up equipment, sold the drugs and laundered vast profits.

It is estimated their portfolio of at least 11 cannabis cultivation factories had the potential to produce annual yields valued at over £500,000.West Midlands Police’s Drugs Investigation Team raided the illegal immigrants’ luxury flats last October 24.

They uncovered £34,000 in cash, drug-growing manuals, receipts for heat lamps and hydroponics equipment and, crucially, property rental documents that led them to discover a string of cannabis factories.

Nguyen, 44, of Holliday Street, Birmingham, Jay, 29, of Hemisphere, Birmingham, and 27-year-old Phan of no fixed address, all admitted conspiracy to produce cannabis and were jailed for four-and-a-half years, four years and 27 months respectively.

Lee, 34, of Hemisphere, and Pham, 27, of Bath Street, Rugby, were both found guilty following a two-week trial and jailed for five and three years respectively. They were sentenced at Warwick Crown Court on July 16.

The court ordered the forfeiture of more than £45,000 and all five will be deported to Vietnam at the end of their jail sentences.

Police found fake documents including passports and ID cards, bank statements showing large cash deposits and rental contracts that led police to Monsal Road, Great Barr, and Grosvenor Street, Wolverhampton.

Officers found more than 500 cannabis plants, whilst forensics also linked the group to factories in Lodge Road, Aston, Albright Road in Smethwick and Leicester. The gang were involved in cannabis farms in Kings Heath, Smethwick, Brierley Hill, Worksop and Ashford.