A WOMAN is facing jail after financing a large-scale cannabis operation in a rented pound six-bedroom farmhouse on the outskirts of Solihull.
And a judge at Warwick Crown Court has warned Lisa Scotney and two men involved with the cannabis farm that they are all facing ‘substantial’ prison sentenced ‘measured in years.’
Scotney (54) of Broadway North, Walsall; Shaun Wilkinson (49) of City Heights, Snow Hill, Birmingham; and Edward Ambrozewicz (55) of Roebuck Glade, Willenhall, Wolverhampton, had all pleaded guilty to conspiring to produce cannabis.
Prosecutor Tariq Shakoor said Scotney financed the cannabis operation and played a significant part in organising it, while Ambrozewicz had expertise in cultivating cannabis.
Wilkinson entered his plea on the basis that he took no part in actually growing the plants – but Mr Shakoor said there was evidence that as well as taking out the lease on the farm, he had been involved in looking after the crop.
The court heard that Heathfield Farm in Hockley Heath, near Solihull, was a six-bedroom house which had 11 acres of grounds and facilities including an indoor swimming pool and a gym, and was accessed through electronic gates.
It had been put up for sale in 2016, but in the meantime was being rented out by Select Lettings who were contacted in July that years by Wilkinson who expressed an interest in renting it.
Two viewings were arranged, and on the second occasion he was accompanied by a woman who Mr Shakoor suggested matched the description of Scotney, who asked for the price to be dropped.
A rent of £3,750 a month was agreed, with a deposit of £4,250 being paid.
“From that date, or very soon after, the production of cannabis was taking place. Texts showed it was already being grown in October 2016.”
All three defendants, as well as a fourth person who was not charged, were at the farmhouse when the police raided the premises in March 2017.
They had used a drone to record Ambrozewicz going from his van to the front of another vehicle where he had spoken to Scotney before going into the garage with a large container.
When the police then forced entry through the gates, they found Ambrozewicz still in the garage and Scotney and Wilkinson in the house.
In various parts of the property they found a large number of cannabis plants in different stages of cultivation.
In the garage there were growing tents containing 40 plants which were about ten weeks from being ready to harvest, 21 root balls from a previous crop, as well as heating and lighting equipment and bags of fertiliser.
In the gym were 11 plants which were just six weeks away from harvest, while a bedroom in the annexe housed seven large plants and 26 small plants in propagators.
A first floor kitchen had five plants, a quantity of cannabis waste from previous harvests, and a shredding machine.
Bedroom five had a tent with five plants in it, while an upstairs sitting room contained a further 13 plants, and a bathroom was being used for storing the growing chemicals.
“This was a set-up in different parts of the property, but each one was properly set up. It was not chaotic,” observed Mr Shakoor.
He said that based on commercial supply in one-ounce deals, that the cannabis found which was ready for sale and the plants approaching harvest would have been worth around £33,000 with further crops on the way.
“Shaun Wilkinson was living there. It seems Lisa Scotney was spending quite a bit of time there, and Ambrozewicz, someone who is experienced in growing cannabis, was visiting regularly.”
At Scotney’s home the police found a detailed list of items needed to set up a cannabis grow, and ‘significant sums of money’ were passing from her account.
Wilkinson had received £73,135 from her which, although not necessarily all relating to drugs, included £3,750 a month for the rent which he then paid to the rental agency, while Ambrozewicz had received £16,911 from her.
Judge Sylvia de Bertodano asked whose idea it was to set up the cannabis farm, observing that according to the basis of plea submitted by each of them ‘no-one had the idea.’
And she rejected a suggestion that it had been rented for a legitimate use as an Airbnb property because ‘the whole place must have reeked of cannabis.’
The judge said she would deal with Ambrozewicz ‘as the expert these two brought in to help them.’
Nick Devine, for Scotney, said: “She is a financier. There’s no dispute she puts the money up for this enterprise.”
Wilkinson’s barrister said: “He says he was given instructions from Lisa Scotney, and that this was something that was going to be set up whether he liked it or not. He was taking part reluctantly.
“He says it was going to be set up as an Airbnb, but he was then told that because he owed her money, the only way to pay it back was to set up a cannabis farm.”
Adjourning the case, Judge de Bertodano said: “I want the prosecution to set out everyone’s role, and the defence for each defendant to respond in full to every point.”
Granting bail until the next hearing on a date to be fixed, she warned: “These three defendants are looking at substantial custodial sentences measured in years.”