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11/11/2007 00:00:00

UK: Vietnamese cannabis gang jailed for 21 years

A VIETNAMESE gang which helped transform seven Teesside properties into
cannabis factories has been jailed for a total of 21-and-a-half years.

Hundreds of powerful “skunk” cannabis plants grown in the re-wired
rented homes would have netted more than £350,000 on the streets.

The properties were converted at a total cost of about £66,500 to grow a
vast supply of the illegal crop.

Prosecutor Jolyon Perks said: “The case concerns the discovery of
significant large-scale production sites of cannabis consistent with
organised crime in the Middlesbrough area.”

Judge Tony Briggs said: “This was a determined and deliberate,
well-organised and lengthy conspiracy.

“The targeting of Teesside by establishing these cannabis farms was a
gross affront and insult to the law-abiding residents of the particular
areas where it happened.

“Operations of this type mounted from outside on such a wide scale are
something Teesside can do well without,” he added yesterday.

He told Teesside Crown Court the five conspirators’ prison sentences had
to send out a signal of deterrent.

He jailed Mai Phan, of Carlbury Avenue, Acklam, Middlesbrough, for seven
years, telling the 37-year-old mum: “You played the major part in this

“You were the one who conducted negotiations for the renting of the
various properties and saw to the payment of rent. You visited the
properties on a regular basis.”

Duong Vuong, 22, received a five-and-a-half-year term for his role as
the “controller” of three of the properties.

Judge Briggs jailed the three remaining defendants - Dung Ngo, 28, Binh
Tho, 24, and Hoa Nguyen, 23, all of no fixed address – for three years.

He said they were the “general workforce” in the enterprise.

“It is sadly plain that people in your position may well be preyed upon
and deceived to become involved in such an operation.

“That said, you did become involved and you stayed in it.”

All five admitted conspiring to produce cannabis between November last
year and June this year. None had previous convictions.

The judge recommended they all be deported after serving their sentences.
Cannabis growing in a house in Wellesley Road

Defence barristers said the five were recruited, duped, exploited or
ensnared by others in the south after coming to the UK for a better life.

It was said they had limited roles and knowledge of the operation, and
did not benefit or profit beyond free board and lodgings.

The judge said: “It may well be there is a head office elsewhere
controlling this operation.

“The unhappy fact is that it wouldn’t have happened but for the part all
of you played in your various ways.

“The desire to acquire skunk cannabis fuels a lot of crime, and when
those who take it also drink alcohol, horrific uncontrolled violence

Senior investigating officer Detective Inspector Mel Ashley said the
sentences sent a clear message to dealers thinking of coming to
Teesside: “We will find you and you will appear before the court and you
will receive a substantial prison sentence.

“This is organised crime and the cannabis is the commodity that they
were using. It's been demonstrated the vast profits that can be made.”

He thanked a team of about 12 officers who worked on the case, and the
Crown Prosecution Service who helped bring the gang to justice in the
ongoing Operation Basar.

A sixth man, Dai Vuu Huu, was previously jailed for two years and
recommended for deportation for cultivating cannabis as a “gardener” at
one of the homes.

Roles of plotters exposed


MAI XUAN PHAN - the “major player” rented properties on Kader Farm Road,
Park Lane, Carlbury Avenue, Marton Road and Farndale Road, all in
Middlesbrough, using the pseudonym 'Michelle'. An Australian citizen
from Vietnam, she claimed an unnamed boyfriend sent her and told her to
rent out the properties.

DUONG DAI VUONG, aka Chi Hung Nguyen – second in line to Phan, a failed
asylum seeker who was involved with the management of three rented
properties, at Green Lane and Wellesley Road, Middlesbrough, and
Thornaby Road, Stockton.

DUNG NGO – described as the “labourer, odd job and delivery man”, his
fingerprints were found at three properties. His counsel Nigel Soppitt
said he was a penniless, hapless small cog in the machine.

BINH HUY THO – said to have been involved as a delivery driver for about
two weeks to drive people around Middlesbrough.

HOA THAU NGUYEN – an illegal immigrant who, according to his barrister
John Gillette, performed a “menial and lowly function” watering plants
at one of the homes.

DAI VUU HUU – a “gardener” at one house only.

How the slick cannabis operation unravelled

MAY 24, 2007: Police searched a property in GREEN LANE, MIDDLESBROUGH
after the landlord found the locks had been changed.

Officers found it had been converted internally for the “large scale
production of cannabis,” with high-powered lighting, heating and ducting
and extensive re-wiring.

Three rooms were found with cannabis plants cultivated, other rooms
converted ready for cultivation. Police seized 331 plants, which could
produce about £75,000 worth of cannabis. Documents lead to more addresses.

MAY 30: Police raid a home in KADER FARM ROAD, ACKLAM, also exclusively
converted for cannabis production.

Three rooms contained 155 flowering plants, expected to yield at least
3.1kg of skunk cannabis worth £35,000, another contained 167
non-flowering plant cuttings.

There were 130 compost blocks showing a previous harvest, and bin liners
containing waste plant material. A cupboard was converted into a nursery
for cuttings.

Tho and Ngo, who had been seen regularly at the property, were spotted
nearby in a silver VW Golf and arrested.

Driver Tho had the door key to an address in PARK LANE, while passenger
Ngo had the key to one in CARLBURY AVENUE.

Another cannabis farm was found at Park Lane with 271 immature plants
which would have yielded at least 5.42kg of skunk worth £60,000. More
waste was found, indicating previous crops.

Carlbury Avenue was found to be a “living quarters” for Phan, Tho and
Nguyen, and possibly a “staging post” for others.

Also found were various immigration documents, a luggage ticket from
Sweden, Australian driving licences, copies of fraudulent passports and
receipts from DIY stores for the purchase of materials for the house

1.10AM, JUNE 2: Phan was arrested hiding under a car as she returned to
Carlbury Avenue with £1,020 cash, two phones and two SIM cards.

JUNE 8: More large scale cannabis production found at a property on
MARTON ROAD – 267 plants capable of producing £38,000 worth of cannabis,
with evidence of previous crops - and on FARNDALE ROAD, where 270 plants
would have produced an estimated 14.3kg of skunk cannabis worth £96,000,
and another 424 immature plants.

JUNE 12: At a WELLESLEY ROAD address, police find Vuong hiding behind a
bedroom door. Hoa Nguyen was also found hiding in the loft. There were
208 cannabis plants, with an estimated potential 416kg yield of skunk,
worth £47,000.

JUNE 13: From a link at Wellesley Road, a property on THORNABY ROAD,
STOCKTON was raided. It had been used to harvest a large amount of
cannabis, and partially cleared.

Author: Evening Gazette via UKCIA

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