Two men who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic became involved in the running a cannabis factory in Watford worth up to £118,000.
Duharel Hada and Nikolas Sinjari were found to have played an organisational role in the running of the illegal farm in Knutsford Avenue, which was found by police on October 27 last year.
Officers had been called to an address in the road following reports of a strong smell of cannabis.
After entering the property, police found it had been converted into a cannabis factory and discovered 141 plants with an estimated street value between £39,000 and £118,000.
A sentencing hearing at St Albans Crown Court on Thursday heard the property where the cannabis factory was based had bypassed electricity.
Prosecutor Philip Allman said that while officers were at the address, an Audi A4 linked to the address was spotted on the M1 before approaching Knutsford Avenue.
The court heard that the car, which was occupied by Hada and Sinjari, altered course as it turned into the road before being stopped by police.
Police found Sinjari, 19, had around £1,400 cash on him, whilst Hada, 27, had around £835 cash.
Phones belonging to the two men were also discovered as well as boxes in the boot that contained compost and fertiliser.
The court heard that Hada had a photo on his phone of a DVLA check related to a van which was linked to the cannabis factory.
Photos on Sinjari’s phone had also matched the electric meter inside the property.
Hundreds of messages were also exchanged on their phones between July and October linked to arranging the ongoing development of several cannabis factories around the country, the court was told.
Hada and Sinjari were arrested and later pleaded guilty to conspiring with others to produce cannabis by managing properties across the country operating as cannabis factories.
In mitigation, the court heard that both defendants had come to the UK from Albania to look for work.
Hada, of no fixed address, had been in debt of up to £12,000 and worked in a car wash which closed due to the pandemic.
Max Mills, representing Hada, said it was then that he got involved in working with drugs after being approached, which he is “deeply regretful and remorseful” for.
Sinjari, of Hamilton Road, Coventry, West Midlands, had come to the UK as a married man and worked in the building trade before moving to a car wash.
But after losing the job when it closed due to the pandemic, he took up a job working with drugs to put food on the table, his lawyer Steven Attridge said.
Following Sinjari’s arrest, he said that the relationship with his wife had deteriorated and that she moved back to Albania.
The court was also told that he is “embarrassed” by the situation and hopes to renew his marriage and return to the country.
Hada was jailed for five years and three months, whilst Sinjari was sentenced to four years and one month in a young offenders’ institute.
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