Man convicted after police execute drugs warrant in St Leonards
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A man who produced thousands of pounds worth of drugs and caused a ‘considerable risk of fire’ has been convicted.
Rigers Lleshi was arrested after officers from the Tactical Enforcement Unit (TEU) executed a warrant at an industrial unit in Shornden Passage, St Leonards.
The warrant had been applied for in June after officers on patrol in the area identified a strong smell of cannabis and the sound of fans coming from the address.
Police entered the building on the morning of Thursday 6 July and found 100 cannabis plants, which were all seized and estimated to have a street value of up to £50,000.
A large quantity of growing equipment was also seized and destroyed.
The electricity supply was found to be dangerously bypassed in two separate places, causing a considerable risk of fire. UK Power Networks were called to attend to make the area safe.
Lleshi, 21, of no fixed address, was arrested at the site on suspicion of producing a controlled drug of Class B (cannabis); abstracting / using electricity without authority; and acquiring / using / possessing criminal property.
He appeared at Brighton Magistrates' Court on Friday 7 July, where he pleaded guilty to all offences. He will be sentenced on 4 August.
Inspector Simon Burroughs said: "This is a great example of following up on officers’ instincts to achieve a significant disruption to the production and supply of drugs in our community.
“The cannabis factory set-up also posed a considerable risk of fire. As there are residential properties in close proximity to this industrial unit, any fire breaking out could have had extremely serious – potentially even fatal – consequences.
“Lleshi gave no comment in interview but thanks to the hard work of the TEU and the East Sussex Community Investigations Team, we were able to present enough compelling evidence to secure a guilty plea at court.”
The warrant was carried out as part of Op Mille – a national operation targeting Organised Crime Groups (OCGs).
A thousand warrants were carried out across England and Wales in June, resulting in hundreds of people being arrested and police seizing firearms, huge amounts of cash, and cannabis plants worth approximately £115-£130 million.
The operation was focused on tackling large-scale cannabis cultivations – a key source of illicit income for OCGs.
Insp Burroughs said: “We are committed to tackling cannabis cultivation as it is often linked to wider criminality including modern slavery and exploitation, money laundering, Class A drugs supply, and violent offences involving members of OCGs.
“We will continue working with partners and police forces across the country to disrupt the supply of drugs, and encourage the public to let us know if they suspect drug-related activity is ongoing in their community.”
For more information on Op Mille, visit the NPCC website here.
To report crime or suspicious behaviour, please contact police online or by calling 101. Always dial 999 in an emergency.