Desperate illegal immigrant jailed after overseeing South Yorkshire cannabis harvest in Carcroft, Doncaster
A desperate illegal immigrant who was trying to pay off a ‘loan shark’ debt has been jailed after being caught overseeing a large cannabis harvest.
Sheffield Crown Court heard on November 17 how Trong Nguyen, aged 57, was caught at a property on Skellow Road, in Carcroft, Doncaster, with 555 cannabis plants and growing equipment.
Neil Coxon, prosecuting, said: “In essence this was a group of rooms on the first floor running above a row of shops. Entry was forced by the police.
"A sophisticated criminal set-up for the production of cannabis was seen. Eight rooms were given over to the production of cannabis. There were maturing plants which numbered 555 and there were 306 seedlings.”
Police also discovered the electricity meter at the property had been bypassed and officers found £760 in cash.
Nguyen told police he was Vietnamese and had been in the UK five or six years trying to pay off a substantial family debt and he had been subjected to threats and he had been based at the property in Doncaster for about three weeks.
Mr Coxon said a co-defendant of Nguyen’s was also arrested after the raid but he has since absconded.
Nguyen, who has no previous convictions in the UK, pleaded guilty to producing class B drug cannabis after the raid on July 13 and he also asked for two further offences of producing cannabis from April, 2016, and June, 2017, at Ellesmere Port to be taken into consideration.
Michael Cane-Soothill, defending, said Nguyen had been operating on a limited basis under pressure and coercion from others and he had no influence upon those above him in the chain.
Mr Cane-Soothill added that Nguyen had been forced to use a ‘loan shark’ to pay off medical bills for his poorly mother who has since died and he had a debt of £6,250 which is an enormous amount of money in Vietnam.
Nguyen was subsequently brought to the UK to pay off the debt, according to Mr Cane-Soothill, and the defendant was engaged in cannabis growing operations in the Liverpool area and Doncaster.
Mr Cane-Soothill said: “Threats were made and he was told if he did not do what he was told he would be injured.”
Nguyen had initially managed to escape his situation and get a job as a pot-washer but during the Covid-19 crisis he lost this work and was found again and brought to Doncaster, according to Mr Cane-Soothill.
Mr Cane-Soothill added: “Despite working for them on three occasions he is not sure they consider the debt extinguished but there is nothing this court can do about that.”
Judge Sarah Wright acknowledged Nguyen was clearly being used to some extent by others further up a criminal chain.
She said: “The message needs to go out that those who come to this country illegally and then involve themselves in criminal activity, however reluctantly, will go to prison.”
Judge Wright sentenced Nguyen to 25 months of custody and told him she anticipates he will be deported at the conclusion of his sentence.