Businessman grew cannabis farms in family homes to pay off e-cig firm debts

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A MAN who operated cannabis farms from two family homes in South Tyneside is facing a jail sentence.

Gavin Benos set up the drug farms with a potential yield of about £70,000 at the home he shared with his mother and another address belonging to his grandparents in a bid to pay off debtors after an E-cigarette business venture went up in smoke.

House in St Vincent Street, South Shields, used as a cannabis farm

House in St Vincent Street, South Shields, used as a cannabis farm

When police swooped on his mother’s home, in Seton Avenue, South Shields, they found 38 cannabis plants divided into two tents.

The 34-year-old told officers “hands up, it’s mine” but police carried out a search at the second property, in the town’s St Vincent Street, after finding documentation linking Benos to the address.

There they uncovered another 50 plants – as well as a raft of drug growing equipment, including bulbs and fans – and a fingerprint belonging to Benos.

Benos pleaded guilty to two counts of producing a Class B drug when he appeared before South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court.

House in Seton Avenue, South Shields, used as a cannabis farm

House in Seton Avenue, South Shields, used as a cannabis farm

Maimuna Bappa, prosecuting, said: “Police acting on information attended a property in Seton Avenue on November 6, where the defendant resides with his mother.

“They knocked on the door and it was opened by his mother. They found cannabis present in two tents. There were 38 plants in total.

“The defendant came in and said to the police ‘hands up, it’s mine’.

“Documents were also found linking him to an address on St Vincent Street. That property was searched and the tenant, Johnathan Bulman, answered.

“Officers carried out a search and found another 50 plants in the flat, as well as bulbs and fans. Benos’ fingerprint was found on one of the items.”

In police interview, Benos admitted responsibility for the farms in both addresses, telling officers his mother had nothing to do with the drug production at Seton Avenue.

The court heard that Benos was given a suspended sentence in 2012 for a previous cannabis cultivation charge.

Valerie Bell, defending, said: “He has pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and should be given maximum credit for that.

“At the time he was involved in a business venture relating to E-Cigarettes which failed. It left with him with debtors, people who put tremendous pressure on him for a cannabis farm to be set up in his property.

“The address on St Vincent Street is a family property, belonging to his grandparents. It is to be transferred to him by way of inheritence.”

Peter Conway, chairman of the magistrates, said the court’s sentencing powers were not sufficient to deal with the matter.

Mr Conway said: “We believe the defendant had a significant role in the offence and the starting point would be one year in custody.

“We are unable to deal with the case today and commit the matter to the crown court.”

Benos will appear before Newcastle Crown Court for sentencing.

He was granted unconditional bail until his crown court appearance.

Twitter: @shieldsgazchris