A thriving £95,000 cannabis factory was discovered by chance when police officers called at a house about something else.
They seized 199 plants from three bedrooms, the attic and bathroom in Leicester’s Wicklow Drive, Rowlatts Hill.
Luc Chignell, prosecuting, told the city’s crown court that officers called at the address on “an unrelated matter” and discovered it was filled with illegal plants.
Inside the rental property was 29-year-old Bledar Rustemi, who had been smuggled into the UK in the back of a lorry.
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He admitted being concerned in the production of cannabis, on Tuesday May 5.
Rustemi was said to have been recruited by those who brought him into the country illegally.
He was told he owed the people smugglers £16,000 in travel fees, to be paid in one month.
Sentencing, Judge Martin Hurst said: “You came here in the back of a lorry on the promise of legitimate work.
“You started that work but were then persuaded or coerced into looking after this cannabis grow.
“The police went to search the property on another matter and found 199 plants in various stages of growth.
“It was a reasonably sophisticated set up with an estimated yield in the order of 10 kilos with a wholesale value of £35,000 and a street value of about £95,000.
“You were candid when you were interviewed and explained how you got involved.
“You expected to receive £8,000 for your involvement, in order to pay off part of the costs of your travel here.
“You had an awareness and understanding of the scale of the operation and played a part within that chain.”
The judge said that despite the circumstances the defendant, who had no previous convictions, was not claiming to be a victim of modern day slavery – and had instructed his solicitors not to pursue that line of inquiry.
He was told to expect deportation at the end of his sentence.
Sarah Cornish, mitigating, said the defendant was initially working in the construction industry in London before being put in an impossible situation when told he owed £16,000.
Rustemi then agreed to work as a cannabis gardener in Leicester to reduce the debt by £8,000.
Miss Cornish said: “He’d been there for 35 days and his role was to water the plants and ensure the cannabis grow was successful.
“He wasn’t actually paid any money.”
Rustemi was jailed for 20 months.