HIDDEN bunkers beneath a shed on a Cudgera Creek property concealed a sophisticated hydroponic million- dollar commercial cannabis operation police found to hold hundreds of thriving plants.
Four people were arrested and on Wednesday, the day of his 56th birthday, Cudgera brickie, Raymond Desmond Mitchell was sentenced by a Lismore District Court judge to serve at least three years and six months in jail for his role in the criminal enterprise.
With time already served following his arrest last year, Mitchell will be eligible for release on December 29, 2011.His alleged co-offenders still face court charges.
Mitchell pleaded guilty in Lismore District Court to the indoor cultivation of 415 cannabis plants found at Cudgera Creek on June 30, 2008. He also pleaded guilty to the illegal consumption of more than $15,000 worth of electricity and to the possession of 300 grams of cannabis.
In Crown facts before Judge James Black a police raid caught Mitchell watering cannabis plants on an upper level of one of three purpose-built sheds at the rural property.
An electricity bypass was in place that meant the electricity being consumed by a high pressure light system used for the cannabis was not metered, with $15,848.25 not accounted for.
Police gave the cannabis crop a street value of $1 million.
Defence lawyer Amy Barkercon- ceded it was a professional operation involving planning and organisation although the property was not owned by her client.
"He knows it was very stupid and has been costly to him and his family, his children" she said.
Ms Barker described Mitchell as a hard worker who left home at 14 and gained a brick-laying apprenticeship.
Her client suffered three broken relationships and a former partner, the mother of two of his children, had been brutally murdered.
"The remorse, shame and embarrassment he has caused his family is quite palpable in the letter (he wrote to the sentencing judge)," she said.
"A low point in (personal) issues led him to make the decision he did. He is a good family man who has worked hard."
The Crown prosecutor said the operation had 415 plants which was more than double the 200 plants required to make a commercial drug offence, with Mitchell involved for financial gain.
In his sentencing, Judge James Blackfound the planning and set-up had been good but not exceptional.