Homeless immigrant smuggled to the UK in a lorry jailed for Leeds cannabis farm

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An illegal immigrant who was smuggled to the UK aboard a lorry has been jailed after he was caught working a cannabis farm at a Leeds house.

Albanian Bledar Tenaj was recruited by a criminal gang after being unable to secure legal work following his arrival in the country.

Following a tip-off, police raided the property on Gathorne Terrace in the Chapeltown area on July 27.

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They found 168 plants across three of the property’s four floors, with an estimated street value of up to £92,000, prosecutor Louise Pryke told Leeds Crown Court.

Tenaj was found tending to the cannabis farm at the property in Chapeltown.Tenaj was found tending to the cannabis farm at the property in Chapeltown.
Tenaj was found tending to the cannabis farm at the property in Chapeltown.

They also found a “sophisticated” set up, with hydroponic lights, carbon filters and lights on timers.

Tenaj was the sole occupant of the house and was taken in for questioning, but gave no comments during his interview.

Remanded into custody at HMP Doncaster, the 35-year-old appeared in court via video link where admitted a charge of production of cannabis.

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An Albanian interpreter was required in the court to translate for him.

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Mitigating on his behalf, barrister Stephen Welford said: “He came to this country on a HGV around 18 months ago.

"Unable to get work legally, he came to Leeds six months ago and was living on the streets.

"There’s no evidence to suggest he has been involved in any other criminal enterprise.

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"He is exactly the type of person that criminal networks prey upon to carry out this type of role that he was involved with.

"He had been recruited to tend to these plants in return for accommodation and food.”

Judge Tom Bayliss QC handed Tenaj 32 months’ jail, and told him it is likely he would be released at the half-way stage of his sentence and then deported.

He said: “The financial rewards associated with growing cannabis are high.

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"The courts must and will reflect that in the sentence that gets passed.

“This was a sophisticated cannabis farm.”

Judge Bayliss said there was no evidence provided to suggest he was living rough and said: “You were, in my judgement, there voluntarily and it’s plain as day that you were there in charge of the day-to-day operation.”