Sandwell man jailed and may face deportation after acting as cannabis farm gardener
A Sandwell man has been jailed and may face deportation after acting as a gardener of cannabis farms in Cumbria.
Albanian national Blerim Salimusaj, aged 26 and of Lily Street in West Bromwich, engaged in unlawful activity with partner-in-crime 22-year-old Luka Mecini, of no fixed abode, in Cleator and Egremont in West Cumbria, a court heart.
Both men pleaded guilty to two charges of being concerned in the production of cannabis relating to the two addresses and were sentenced to 18 months on Friday.
Salimusaj acted as the gardener of cannabis farms after failing to clear a £20,000 debt accrued as he entered the UK illegally.
Carlisle Crown Court heard police first executed a warrant at a property on Brisco Road in Egremont, in the west of the county, on February 28.
Prosecutor Brendan Burke said: “They discovered a cannabis farm with 185 plants in all, and all the equipment normally associated with the large production of cannabis."
A witness had seen two men on an earlier occasion carrying out painting work with the pair having arrived at the address in an Audi vehicle.
Police began investigating that registration and on the night of February 28, the same two men, Salimusaj and an accomplice, were seen exiting an address two miles away at Main Street in Cleator.
Mr Burke said: “They got into the same Audi vehicle which was stopped.
"Police went back to the Main Street address and discovered a second cannabis farm. This had 142 plants and associated equipment.
“Given the commonalities between the associated equipment at the two addresses, police were satisfied and the defendants now agree they were involved in both operations.”
It emerged in court that the duo’s illegal gardening activities had been carried out over a three-month period between December 1 and March 1.
In court, little mitigation was offered on behalf of Mecini. But Jacob Dyer, for Salimusaj, said he had no previous convictions.
Mr Dyer said: “He came to the UK in 2018 illegally.
“He had a significant debt as a result of that trafficking. That was a sum of twenty-odd thousand pounds.
"He was struggling to work off that debt when he was farming the cannabis that was nothing to do with the traffickers and his financial motivation was to pay off that debt.
“Before that he had been working in various construction jobs but he hadn’t been able to make any significant inroads into that debt.
“He has pleaded guilty so I do ask for the appropriate credit and ask the court to keep the sentence as short as possible.”
Judge Andrew Jefferies KC ordered both men to service immediate 18-month prison sentences.
He said: "At the two properties concerned, you were involved for a period of three months or so; you were free to come and go from these properties and not kept there against your will; and I have accepted the submission that your role probably falls somewhere between significant and lesser.
Referring to the pair’s previous illegal UK entry, the judge told them: “It is not any business of mine but an 18-month prison sentence means you will be liable for deportation at some point during the sentence.”