Cannabis production firm put out of business
A regional crime group has been dismantled after four men were jailed for offences relating to the production of cannabis on an industrial scale.
Over an 18-month period beginning in August 2009, a criminal network led by Mark Howie - with support from his Dutch tenant, Eric Van Degroot Van Embden and Alan Reeves - plotted to produce and supply quantities of the Class B drug that could have generated millions of pounds in illicit profits.
SOCA investigators found that Howie was in regular contact with Jamie Leah, whose business card identified him as Director of a company based at Units 10 and 11 of the Moulton Park Business Centre in Northampton.
Officers from Northamptonshire Police and SOCA searched those premises on 24th February 2011 and found 132 cannabis plants being grown with the aid of equipment including heat lamps, fan extraction units and industrial irrigation systems.
Those plants could have yielded approximately 25kg of herbal cannabis per cycle, with the possibility of three cycles per year.
Leah had also acquired the lease to an industrial unit at Stafford Place, Northampton, shortly before a search of the building in September 2010 revealed 130 cannabis plants, which being dried in readiness for distribution.
He also arranged the renting of premises in the same Northampton business park as his firm on behalf of a 'John Hughes', who was never seen, nor spoken to, by any of the site managers. Rental payments were always paid by Leah in cash and no evidence that the 'John Hughes' in question existed ever came to light. The unit was nevertheless modified in a manner necessary for use in the cultivation of cannabis.
Another group member, Gary Collins, had acquired the lease for Denington House, a 30,000 sq ft industrial unit in Wellingborough which was searched in March 2011.
Officers found that modifications in line with those at the unit in Northampton had been made. Had the entire unit been used for cannabis production, the annual yield could have generated revenue running into the millions.
Jamie Leah and Gary Collins were convicted following a seven-and-a-half week trial at Leicester Crown Court. The five other men had previously entered guilty pleas followed a SOCA investigation supported by the Northamptonshire, Port of Tilbury, Thames Valley and West Midlands police forces.
Sentenced on 3 August:
Mark Howie: Sentenced to five years and four months. He is already serving an 18-year sentence for cocaine importation. More on that investigation can be found here
Louis Ermerins: Sentenced to four years.
Jamie Leah: Sentenced to five years and six months.
Gary Collins: Sentenced to five years.
Guy Butler: Sentenced to 8 months, suspended for two years, and 180 hours of unpaid work.
Eric Van Degroot Van Embden and Alan Reeves will be sentenced at a later date.
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