Police find the keys to a cannabis factory in Rugby after stopping two men in a car
Both have been jailed for producing cannabis at the house and possessing criminal property
When the police stopped two men in a car in Rugby, one of them had the keys to a nearby house which officers then discovered had been turned into a cannabis factory.
Both men denied ever having been at the property in William Street, where there were more than 200 cannabis plants, but the fingerprints of one of them was found on a drinks can.
And Klaudi Mehnetaj and Vilson Hoxha both pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to producing cannabis at the house and possessing criminal property.
Mehnetaj (29) of Middleton Road, London, was jailed for 18 months and Hoxha (33) of no fixed address, for 20 months after he also admitted driving while disqualified.
Prosecutor Justin Jarmola said that at lunchtime on October 8 last year police officers stopped a car being driven by Hoxha, with Mehnetaj in the passenger seat.
When they searched the car, the officers found a council tax bill for a house in William Street, Rugby, although both men denied any knowledge of the address.
Mehnetaj, who told the police he lived in London and worked as a gardener, had two phones and £250 in cash on him, while Hoxha had £1,265.
A key taken from Hoxha fitted the lock at the house in William Street, and inside was ‘a sophisticated cannabis grow.’
There were 205 plants being grown in five rooms using a hydroponic system, lighting, fans and filters, and the electric meter, to which Mehnetaj had a meter key, had been by-passed.
When he was interviewed Mehnetaj said he had fallen on hard times during the pandemic and had been offered work and was driven to Rugby and handed the key and £200 in cash.
“He denied having entered the address, which was false, because there was a drinks can with his fingerprints on it in the house,” said Mr Jarmola.
Hoxha denied any knowledge of the address, and claimed he did not know he was disqualified from driving at the time.
Laura Collier, for Hoxha, said: “He entered into this because of his dire financial situation. He had been living at that property for a short period of time, working as a gardener.
“He was recruited because of his precarious immigration status. It is indicative of a wider network, of which he was the manager of only one branch.”
Miss Collier added that Hoxha had qualified as a surgical nurse in Albania, but was unable to find work in the care sector in this country because he had entered illegally.
Lee Master, for Mehnetaj, suggested that the judge could ‘draw an inference’ about him from the fact that he was not the driver and had less money on him.
And he said that Mehnetaj had lost three members of his family in Albania to Covid, and other members had been infected.
Jailing the two men, and banning Hoxha from driving for three years and ten months, Judge Peter Cooke told them: “The two of you had been tending 205 cannabis plants.
“It was an operation of some scale and sophistication involving by-passing the electricity supply. This was undoubtedly at a commercial level.
“It has been urged on me that the two of you were, albeit in the country illegally, busying yourselves with non-criminal employments until you were adversely affected by the pandemic, at which point you were recruited to play these roles at this cannabis grow.
“But each of you took this as employment. It was to be for the time you were doing it your sole means of support.
“I take the view that although you were not shareholders in the enterprise, you were salaried employees of it.
"As the people running the William Street operation day-to-day, you did each of you have knowledge of the scale of that William Street enterprise.
"The fact that you were out and about in a car showed that you two enjoyed a greater degree of autonomy than is usually granted to cannabis gardeners by their employers.”
And Judge Cooke added that once they had served their sentences, the authorities would move to deport them.