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27 July 2012, 15:16
A 48 year-old Hemel Hempstead man who was sentenced to three years and four months after being convicted of cultivating cannabis in a Stevenage factory unit, has been ordered to pay the authorities £225,000.
The sum is estimated to be the value of available assets Jamie Roberts earned by criminal means – but he’s been ordered to hand it over by a court thanks to Proceeds of Crime Act legislation.
Roberts, of Abel Close, was charged with cultivating cannabis after Hertfordshire officers raided an industrial unit in Whittle Way, Stevenage, on April 12, 2011.
The officers had arrived at the premises armed with a search warrant but a vehicle was parked outside when they arrived. As they approached, Roberts exited the unit. The officers told Roberts they had come to execute a warrant for suspected cannabis and he responded saying there were two other men inside.
On entering, officers found the unit had been adapted into a hydroponics factory with modifications made to the electrical supply. Approximately one thousand cannabis plants in various stages of growth were found.
Two other men, Thong Van Hoang, 58, of no fixed abode, and Sonvan Tran, 40, also of no fixed abode, were arrested inside the property. They were also convicted of cultivating cannabis at Cambridge Crown Court last year and both received 18 months imprisonment each.
Roberts appeared for a confiscation hearing before Cambridge Crown Court earlier this month.
The judge heard that Roberts is believed to have earned around £725,000 from his illegal activities but only has £225,000 in assets, which he must hand over within six months. If he fails to pay this money within six months, he will receive an additional 30 months in jail and still be liable for the payment.
The rest of the £500,000 debt to the authorities remains outstanding and the judge ruled that if Roberts comes into money by any means, he is still liable to repay the entire amount for the rest of his life.
Detective Sergeant Joe Quinlivan of Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Economic Crimes Unit told Heart: "We are delighted with the result. Criminals need to understand that if you make money by illicit means, we will come after you for it.
Members of the public are our eyes and ears – and we rely on you to let us know if you are suspicious about someone living beyond their means."
Det Ser Quinlivan added: "If you think someone may be benefiting financially through crime, you can let us know in the strictest confidence by calling the police non emergency number 101. You can also ring Crimestoppers completely anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Also let us know if you suspect a premises of being used for drug cultivation or dealing. Cannabis factories can be set up in all types of properties, including residential ones."
DS Quinlivan concluded: "As well as the numbers above, you can also report anonymously by visiting HERE (under Drugs section of Operation Crystal) using a secure on-line form. Your personal details cannot be traced."
Cannabis Factory – How to spot one:
Strong smell of de-odourisers or air fresheners
Lights being left on all day and night
Curtains constantly drawn or windows blacked out
A sudden jump or fall in electricity bills
High humidity in the property
There is a lot of noise when someone moves into a property, but afterwards no one seems to be living there
Strange comings and goings of people