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Man who converted office block into cannabis grow jailed for seven years

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The operation was discovered after nearby residents noticed a mattress being moved into the vacant building

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The man who converted two storeys of a vacant office block into a cannabis farm has been sentenced to seven years in prison.

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The operation, which housed about 400 plants in a building in County Durham, U.K., is believed to be just one of a network of “industrial-sized” grows sites the man maintains at properties across the country, according to the BBC.

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  1. Three men, aged 29, 31 and 36, were arrested inside the warehouse and jailed for three years after pleading guilty to the production of a Class B drug. 

    Historic cannabis grow discovered in southern England

  2. Police made the bust in Wishaw, Lanarkshire, a town of about 30,000 people in Scotland. PHOTO BY VASILEVKIRILL / ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS

    Cannabis site worth $100K busted next to police station

  3. Image for representation. It reportedly took officers with the Merseyside Police two days to dismantle the grow and an investigation is underway to determine who may have been behind it. /

    Cannabis grow discovered in a former post office for the second time

The 55-year-old also saw nearly $500K in cash seized. The operation was discovered after nearby residents noticed a mattress being moved into the vacant building.

Inside, the grow site took up one floor, while makeshift sleeping quarters, food supplies and cooking untenesils were discovered on a second floor.

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The plants were valued at about $410,000, while the growing equipment and supplies were estimated to be worth another $100,000.

Police say the man had “moved into our area to commit his crime.”

“He claimed ignorance to the drugs found at his property but through investigation, he was shown to be a skilled criminal operating at a high level along with others,” said a police spokesperson.

It’s far from the first time a vacant building has been converted into a cannabis grow, be it former retail stores, post offices, or even disused buildings right next to police stations.

A report from Insurance Business Magazine last year found a growing trend in the U.K. with “fire and malicious damage claims across a number of insured property schemes which have arisen from the illegal cultivation of cannabis.”

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The report also noted that illegal cannabis production in the U.K. has shifted to small-scale operations in recent years, with up to 94 per cent of cannabis farms being located in residential buildings and police uncovering the operations at a rate of about 25 grow sites a day.

According to a University of Cambridge study, migrants arrested for working on cannabis grows are often victims of trafficking and ‘debt bondage.’

“The abuses of freedom in cannabis farm cases do not tally with traditional perceptions of slavery. Victims may be held against their will, forced to work and unable to leave, despite an unlocked door,” said Heather Strang, the study’s senior author.

“Big questions remain about how the criminal justice system should ethically manage modern slavery victims who are also illegal immigrants involved in illegal activity,” she added.

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