A NETWORK of cannabis farms have been closed down across Teesside landing three Albanian nationals in prison.

Arben Guri and Aurel Hyka were caught in a house on Cromer Street, Middlesbrough, with thousands of pounds worth of the Class B drug as well as a crossbow.

The pair had arrived in the North East from London to look after the cannabis plants – there were two other men arrested in connection with the raid, one is due to stand trial later this year while the other was cleared of all charges.

The Northern Echo:

The crossbow recovered from the property by Cleveland Police

Teesside Crown Court heard how Cleveland Police discovered three packages of cannabis ready to be sold on the streets worth up to £12,860.

Rachel Masters, prosecuting, said a search of Hyka's mobile phone showed a connection to a property on Cheltenham Avenue in Thornaby.

A search of that address revealed around 192 plants worth approximately £162,000.

Miss Masters said Guri has arrived in Middlesbrough on November 16 and was arrested just two days later at his new address on Cromer Street.

During police interview the 33-year-old said he knew nothing about the cannabis at the property in Thornaby.

The court heard how his co-accused, Hyka, was working in construction in London before moving to Middlesbrough to tend the cannabis plants.

Guri and Hyka both pleaded guilty to being concerned on the supply of cannabis.

Rebecca Brown, for Guri, said: "This defendant was at Cromer Street for just two days, he arrived there after he had been working cash in hand in London."

And Alex Bousfield, representing Hyka, said his client had made no money out of the deal before his arrest.

He said: "He regrets his involvement in this offence and hopes to return to Albanian as soon as possible."

Judge Jonathan Carroll jailed the pair for 18 months following their guilty pleas in connection with the drugs recovered from Cromer Street.

He said: "You came to Middlesbrough to take part in cannabis production and benefit from the financial reward."

In a second case before the same judge another Albanian national pleaded guilty to three charges connected to the production and sale of cannabis.

Endrid Hassani, of Bedford Street, Stockton, was arrested when Cleveland Police raided his home and discovered cannabis plants and packages of the Class B drug ready for sale.

Harry Hadfield, prosecuting, said the 26-year-old was also connected with a cannabis farm on Dunster Road, Billingham, where two rooms had been turned into 'professional' growing rooms.

Hassani pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis, production of cannabis and possession of cannabis with intent to supply.

In mitigation, Rob Cowley said Hussani had been allowed to stay in the house as part payment for his efforts to look after the cannabis plants.

Judge Carroll sentenced the defendant to 16 months for his part in the 'professional growing enterprise'.

He said: "In Dunster Road there was 23 plants in one bedroom and 26 plants in another both were found to be a professional set-up."