AN Albanian man told police he was paid £4,000 to oversee a large-scale cannabis ‘grow’ in a terraced house in a County Durham village.

Albert Rami tried to escape via the kitchen window of the property in Ushaw Moor, when police called, on July 8.

Durham Crown Court heard that he was detained and a mobile phone plus £215 in his possession were seized.

Phillip Morley, prosecuting, said the downstairs of the premises, in Arthur Street, were habitable.

But, in the first bedroom 53 female plants were being grown, while a further 27 were found in a second and 84 more immature plants were recovered from the loft area.

Mr Morley said each of the grow rooms was fitted with fans, venting and lighting systems, while the electricity meter appeared to have been tampered with to provide a free source of power.

Bagged up plant material from earlier crops was also found by police.

A police drugs expert estimated there was the potential for three crops per year, which could net between £100,000, wholesale, or £200,000 in street sale deals.

Mr Morley told the court: “In his opinion it was a large-scale commercial cultivation.

“When interviewed, the defendant accepted he had been paid £4,000 to look after the plants and had been there for about four to five months.

“He was aware he was looking after cannabis plants, and not a crop for personal use.”

Thirty-year-old Rami, who has no previous convictions in this country, admitted producing a class B drug.

Tony Davis, mitigating, said Rami, “an unsophisticated, relatively young man” came to this country via Ireland and gave up a car wash job in Belfast to travel to England, via Merseyside.

He was moved on to County Durham to tend the farm to enable him to pay the person who arranged him to be smuggled to these shores.

Judge James Adkin imposed a 27-month prison sentence, and told Rami he was “more than likely” to be deported on release.