POLICE smashed a sophisticated cannabis growing operation in Blackpool which could have produced up to half a million pounds worth of drugs a year.
Cannabis plants were discovered at several different properties.
Officers even discovered £50,000 cash hidden down the bottom of an arm chair at an address on Bela Grove.
Details of the investigation were outlined at Preston Crown Court as a Vietnamese illegal immigrant was sentenced for her involvement in a conspiracy to produce cannabis.
She had earlier failed to turn up for a court hearing and was at large for over two years before her arrest. She had failed to appear back in September 2008.
A warrant for her arrest was executed last December.
An Ngo, 20, now living in Merther Tudfit in Wales, admitted the conspiracy charge and also failing to answer bail.
Three other people involved in the plot have already been sentenced for their part.
The man regarded as the ring-leader was given a four and a half year jail term.
Katie Jones, prosecuting, said the conspiracy – uncovered in March 2007 – had been well organised.
Police executed a search warrant at a four-bedroomed rented property on Park Road, Blackpool.
All the bedrooms had been converted for growing cannabis. Some 140 plants were found.
Miss Jones told the court “The prosecution say it was impossible even to look inside, let alone visit or stay, without realising what was going on.”
There were signs of a recent harvest at the address.
Other properties visited were on Livingstone Road, Peter Street, Milburn Street, South King Street and Bela Grove where the defendant had been living.
In all, hundreds of cannabis plants were found.
They had a total estimated street value of about £105,000.
However, if the plants produced a crop four or five times a year, that figure could have risen to something like £428,000.
Ngo’s fingerprints were found on plant pots in two rooms at an address on Milburn Street.
She told police she had come to the UK three years earlier as an illegal immigrant. She said she came to work as a nail technician, being paid £300 a week.
Her intention had been to send money back to Vietnam for her younger brother to go to college.
Defence barrister Chris Hudson said: “She was under significant pressure”.
Ngo was given 12 months’ prison, suspended for two years, with two years’ supervision.