Seven men have been sentenced at Lewes Crown Court today (21/5) to more than 23 yearsâ€™ imprisonment between them after a lengthy investigation into the commercial production of cannabis.
As part of the operation SEROCU conducted investigations into a number of premises in the South East that were being used or had been used for the purposes of producing cannabis on an industrial scale
Following a four week trial at Brighton Crown Court, Carl Lee, aged 32, from Balcombe in Sussex was found guilty on 7 March of three counts of conspiracy to produce cannabis on a commercial basis. He was also found guilty of production of cannabis at Michaelmas Barn, Bolney on a commercial basis.
Six other defendants, listed below, had already pleaded guilty to various other conspiracies to produce cannabis on a commercial basis at a previous hearing and have also been sentenced today.
It was estimated during the course of the trial that the various grows would have had an annual turnover of approximately Â£1.5 million.
Det Insp Simon Harsley said: â€œThis was an investigation by the Criminal Finance Team that targeted a number of commercial cannabis factories and had a potential turnover of millions of pounds.
â€œAs the investigation developed, it became clear that a shop selling hydroponics equipment and fertiliser was at the centre of this industrial and commercial enterprise.
â€œThe men at court today probably thought that their seemingly lucrative business would go unnoticed by the police, but it didnâ€™t and now they must pay the consequences of their actions with a prison sentence.
â€œThe investigation will not conclude when those before the court are convicted and investigators will seek to recover the proceeds of their criminal activity utilising the proceeds of crime act.
â€œAn order was also granted at court today enabling the team to donate some of the hydroponics equipment seized from this business to worthy causes such as community based projects and National Trust Gardens.â€