Forest Hill letting agent jailed for cultivating cannabis
Two men who ran a letting agents in Forest Hill, London and used the properties they were managing to produce cannabis have been jailed for a total of eight years at Woolwich Crown Court.
Following a 3 week trial, Aidan Lynch, 51 of Devonshire Road, SE23 was sentenced on Friday 15 April to five years imprisonment and Jason Smart, 47 of Gladiator Road, SE23 was sentenced to three years imprisonment. An accomplice, Patrick McArdle, 37 of no fixed abode was jailed for five years and six months.
On 14 February 2013, Lewisham Police executed a drugs warrant at a basement premises below shops on Crystal Palace Parade, SE19 where they discovered a cannabis factory, with plants estimated to have a street value of £497,000. Electricity was also being illegally abstracted by bypassing the electricity meter.
Two men who later arrived at the property, Lynch and Smart, identified themselves as being the letting agents. Lynch was the manager of ‘Home to Home’ letting agents and Smart was his employee. As they were unable to confirm who had the tenancy of the property, they were arrested for conspiracy to supply cannabis.
What followed was a complex and long-running police investigation to establish the true circumstances. Searches were carried out at the offices of Home to Home letting agents and the suspects home addresses. No tenancy agreement for the property could be found, although over £60,000 cash was discovered, that could not be accounted for.
When the agent give police the tenancy agreement a week later, forensic analysis suggested the agreement has been produced by Lynch following his arrest.
In September 2013, a thorough investigation was carried out into all properties owned and managed by ‘Home to Home’ which led to another cannabis factory being discovered at a property on Dartmouth Road (pictured below).
In total, Police discovered that there were at least seven properties that had been managed by Lynch at Home to Home that had been used as cannabis factories, which had the potential to produce cannabis with an annual street value of over £2 million.
Detective Constable Kirsty Marchi, the investigating officer from Lewisham, said:
“This was a very long and complex investigation. Lynch and Smart ran a very sophisticated operation and they thought they would get away with it, but the execution of the drugs warrant at the address at Crystal Palace Parade brought their operation crashing down.
“They claimed that they had no knowledge their premises were being used as cannabis factories and it was simply unfortunate. Smart roped in McArdle who he knew was a criminal and could produce the cannabis whilst Lynch would allow those properties to be let out knowing that they would be used as cannabis factories.
“I am pleased we have put a stop to their criminal enterprise; the owners of the properties who placed their trust in Lynch had no knowledge that he would use their premises in order to produce drugs.“