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Two men from the Lichfield and Burntwood area have been jailed for their part in running an illegal cannabis farm.
Neil Bridges, 36, from Hammerwich, was jailed for six years after admitting conspiracy to supply and produce cannabis, while 46-year-old Tony Mobbs, from Barton under Needwood, was jailed for three and a half years after admitting the same charge. Shane Breen, 38 and from Barton-under-Needwood, was given a community order after admitting the production of cannabis.
They were part of an 11-strong group who were sentenced at Stafford Crown Court after the discovery of a large-scale cannabis production facility at a Lincolnshire farm.
The men were arrested following a five-month investigation which uncovered a complex set-up in huge barns at the farm in Castle Bytham with a potential annual cannabis yield worth around £2.75 million.
As well as over 800 cannabis plants, officers discovered 1,600 empty buckets prepared for drug cultivation. The barns had undergone extensive adaptation – costing around £1.4 million – with generators, fans, lighting and ventilation equipment installed.
Sentenced alongside the two men from Barton and Hammerwich were:
The farm’s owner, Iain Brown, from Chichester, Sussex, 60, convicted of conspiracy to produce and supply cannabis and jailed for eight years.
Desmond Bayliss, 41, from Toxteth in Liverpool, convicted of conspiracy to supply and produce cannabis and also given an eight-year prison sentence.
Peter Bassett, 47, from Rugeley, jailed for four years after admitting conspiracy to supply and produce cannabis.
Paul Hicks, 41, from Solihull, sentenced to three and half years in prison after admitting conspiracy to supply and produce cannabis.
Robert Eyland, 35, from Minworth, near Sutton Coldfield, given a three-year prison sentence after admitting conspiracy to supply and produce cannabis.
John Stacey, 47, from Sutton Coldfield, jailed for four years after admitting conspiracy to supply and produce cannabis.
Andrew Stacey, 28, from Sutton Coldfield, sentenced to three years after admitting conspiracy to supply and produce cannabis.
Barry Brearley, 65, from West Bromwich, given a 12 month suspended prison sentence and a community order after admitting conspiracy to produce cannabis.
Detective Chief Inspector Jane Hewett from Staffordshire Police, said: “Today’s lengthy sentences follow a wide-ranging investigation which derailed a major cannabis growing enterprise.
“These men were part of an organised crime group, with criminal links nationwide, who set up one of the country’s biggest cannabis factory set-ups. They met on a car park off the A38 at Barton-under-Needwood before travelling to the farm.
“The enterprise was thwarted in its early stages thanks to excellent work by officers from our Serious and Organised Crime Unit, supported by our colleagues in Lincolnshire.
“Operation Nemesis is continuing to bring drug dealers to justice across the county. Today’s sentences send a clear message to people are thinking of producing or dealing drugs in Staffordshire: they will be caught and brought to justice.
“There is no doubt that several of these offenders were living lavish lifestyles funded by drug crime. Significant amounts of cash were seized during the arrest operation and the Proceeds of Crime Act will be used to strip them of their assets.”