Gang forced Chinese farmer to guard Werrington drugs den
GANGSTERS brought a Chinese farmer to Britain and forced him to guard thousands of pounds worth of cannabis at a house in Werrington.
Ming Chen was placed at the address by the notorious Snakeheads gang, Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard yesterday.
He owed about £30,000 which the gang charged to bring him to the UK.
Chen worked in agriculture and takeaways before he was taken to the house in Ash Bank Road, where his job was to ensure no-one broke in or ill-treated or damaged plants.
But police forced entry at 8.30am on November 8 and discovered the house had been transformed into a cannabis factory.
Prosecutor David Bennett said: "The defendant ran out the rear of the premises. He was chased, detained and arrested. He was in possession of £275 cash."
Mr Bennett said three bedrooms on the first floor had been adapted for growing cannabis.
"There was a relatively sophisticated set up," said Mr Bennett.
"There was lighting, heating, ventilation, electrical equipment and plant nutrients."
Officers recovered 144 mature plants with an estimated yield of 6.4 kilograms of skunk cannabis worth between £22,750 and £31,920.
They also found 175 cuttings, which had an estimated yield of 7.88 kilograms of skunk cannabis with a value of between £27,300 and £38,900. The potential annual yield of the crop was 32.4 kilograms.
Chen, aged 38, of Morton Street, Middleport, pleaded guilty to producing a class B drug.
Stuart Muldoon, mitigating, said Chen's role was that of security officer for which he was allowed to stay rent-free and was fed.
Mr Muldoon said Chen was a farmer in his native China but his land was taken from him by the Chinese Government. "He was left with no income and came to the attention of the Snakehead gang and they offered him employment in the UK," said Mr Muldoon.
"The charge for his transportation was about £30,000. He was in the hands of a gang who knew where his family and child were residing. He felt he had little choice. He had no way of obtaining funds from any other source."
Jailing Chen for two years, Recorder Rachel Brand QC said: "This was a sophisticated enterprise. The electricity had been interfered with in order to fuel this extensive cannabis growing operation. It had the potential for large quantities of cannabis to be produced."
Chen will serve half the sentence before the UK Border Agency decide whether he is deported.
Ms Brand QC ruled Chen had benefited by £275 and ordered the money be confiscated. If Chen does not pay within three months he must serve an extra 14 days in prison.