Florin Tokrri and Aleksander Gjini, both originally from Albania, were caught during simultaneous raids in the Black Country and Stoke by police targeting drug dealing in Gloucestershire.
Both men worked as "puppeteers" for a large organised gang, Gloucester Crown Court was told, and were each given jail sentences of more than two years after pleading guilty to cannabis production in West Bromwich and Tipton.
Tokrri, 33, was caught in a car outside the drugs farm in West Bromwich, while 27-year-old Gjinni was found in a bedroom at the house in Tipton. Meanwhile in Stoke, police found more than £60,000 in cash and an identity card belonging to Tokrri.
At Gloucester Crown Court, prosecutor Nicholas Lee explained how the busts unfolded on July 9, 2020, starting with when Tokrri was spotted in an Audi in Ruskin Street.
“The police seized his phone and in his lap he had a set of keys for a Ford Transit van, which was also parked nearby," Mr Lee said.
“Inside the van there were six bin bags containing the remains of cannabis plants, a mattress and a washing machine.
“Another address visited by police was in Highfield Road, Tipton, where Aleksander Gjini, was found in a bedroom in the property. His phone was also seized during a search of the property along with a small amount of cash."
The third address was in Alexandra Road in Stoke and it was during a search of this property that a bundle of bank notes were found under a coffee table in the living room along with an identity card belonging to Tokrri, and carrier bags containing around £60,000 cash in the bedroom.
In interview Gjini said that he knew nothing about the production of cannabis or money laundering and explained that the cash that the police had found was his from building work he had done in London. Tokrri gave a no comment interview.
One of the carrier bags, containing £24,000 in cash, had Gjini's fingerprints on it and the money was contaminated with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) - one of the constituents of cannabis.
Both phones were examined which revealed a large volume of messages associated with the production of cannabis.
An expert concluded that both Gjini and Tokrri had been involved in the production of commercial cannabis as part of larger organised crime group and that both men had been operational for some time.
“They were trusted members of the organisation and were operating for financial gain," Mr Lee said.
They both had significant roles in the operation which included looking after them and sourcing new plants, the court heard.
The experts analysed the remnants of a failed crop and concluded that if the plants had gone on to full maturity they could have be worth around £26,000 in street deals or £13,000 if sold in bulk.
The court was told that Gjini was arrested at Luton Airport following an warrant issued by the court for his non attendance at an earlier hearing.
Eugene Hickey, representing Gjini, said that in Albania his client had qualified as a vet but was unable to gain employment and when he found himself in this country he had only been in the UK for four months when he was arrested.
Mr Hickie added: “When he arrived he realised he couldn’t work legitimately and fell into the criminal network to earn money which he sent back home to Albania.
“Growing cannabis for him was not a success story as the latest batch of plants all died.
“He admitted his guilt eight months ago and has been remanded in custody ever since.”
Robert Cowley, for Tokrri, said: “The reward for his work in the operation was not significant but he was making enough to live on. When the property was searched by police they found around £500 in cash and Tokrri had £480 in his wallet.
“Tokrri was not financially invested in cannabis production, he was just looking after the operation for others. The money found on him was a result of him working in the building trade and being paid cash in hand. However this employment dried up during the pandemic lockdown and was tempted into the world of drugs instead.”
Both Tokrri of Ruskin Street, West Bromwich, and Gjini of King Edwards Road, Edmonton, London, admitted being concerned in the production of cannabis at the addresses in Tipton and West Bromwich between May 14, 2019 and July 9, 2020.
Judge Ian Lawrie QC said to both defendants: “You are both clearly hard workers, and have other skills, but you decided to involve yourself in the world of drugs and have admitted being concern in the production of cannabis.
“Your role was to ensure the cultivation was carried out properly. The scale of the operation along with the text messages being exchanged showed you had significant roles as puppeteers. There was money to be made.”
The judge jailed Tokrri two years and three months and Gjini for two years and four months. Both men will be subject to a proceeds of crime hearing next year.