A police raid on a property at Cudgera Creek uncovered a sophisticated cannabis plantation, with the number of plants discovered said to have a street value of around $1 million.
HIDDEN bunkers beneath a shed on a Cudgera Creek property concealed a sophisticated, million-dollar hydroponic commercial cannabis operation that police found to hold hundreds of thriving plants.
Four people were arrested and on Wednesday, his 56th birthday, Cudgera brickie Raymond Desmond Mitchell was sentenced by a Lismore District Court judge to serve at least three years and six months for his role in the enterprise.
With time already served following his arrest last year, Mitchell will be eligible for release on December 29, 2011.
His alleged co-offenders are still to face court.
Mitchell pleaded guilty to the indoor cultivation of 415 cannabis plants at Cudgera Creek on June 30 last year.
He also pleaded guilty to the illegal consumption of more than $15,000 worth of electricity, and to possession of 300 grams of cannabis.
Crown facts state a police raid caught Mitchell watering cannabis plants in one of three purpose-built sheds at the rural property.
An electricity bypass meant the electricity being consumed by a light system used for the cannabis was not metered, with $15,848.25 not accounted for.
Police gave the cannabis crop a street value of $1 million.
Defence lawyer Amy Barker conceded that it had been a professional operation involving planning and organisation, although the property was not owned by her client.
“He knows it was very stupid and has been costly to him and his family, his children,” she said.
Ms Barker described Mitchell as a hard worker who left home at 14 and gained a bricklaying apprenticeship.
Her client suffered three broken relationships and a former partner, the mother of two of his children, had been brutally murdered.
She said a low point in personal issues led him to make the decision he did.
“He is a good family man who has worked hard,” she said.
The Crown prosecutor said the operation had 415 plants, which was more than double the 200 plants required to make a commercial drug offence, with Mitchell involved for financial gain.
In his sentencing, Judge James Black found the planning and set-up had been good, but not exceptional, and the number of plants not of a vast quantity.
Judge Black said he had no information to use in sentencing on how long the operation had been going at Cudgera Creek, or how much of the cannabis crop had been harvested.