AN illegal immigrant agreed to tend a domestic cannabis farm after work on constructions sites dried up during the pandemic.

Samet Mezini was placed in a rented property in John Street, Beamish Village, to act as “gardener” to the plants, being grown across four rooms of the house.

He was arrested when police visited on March 12.

Durham Crown Court heard 56 semi-mature plants were recovered from the four rooms, where their growth was assisted by lighting, heating and watering equipment, less than a year old and worth an estimated £8,000.

A further 260 seedlings were found, ready to be planted in the next growth cycle.

Sam Faulks, prosecuting, said, the recovered plants had the potential to net £25,000 in bulk sale or £47,000 in street sales.

But the seedlings, if successfully propagated, could have gone on to make £110,000 wholesale.

Mezini, 33, admitted producing a class B drug.

Mr Faulks said the Crown does not believe he has any convictions in this country but is unaware if he has a criminal record in his native Albania.

Vic Laffey, for the defendant, said he has been in this country, illegally, for the last three years, labouring on construction sites in London, work which dried up during the pandemic.

“He had no income and became desperate, leading to him becoming involved in this enterprise through that desperation.

“It was an opportunity simply of having somewhere to live and feed, and that’s all.”

Judge Ray Singh told Mezini he became, “embroiled in a significant cannabis growing operation”, capable of making tens of thousands of pounds.

Imposing a 21-month sentence, he told the defendant he would serve up to half in prison, with the likelihood of deportation, thereafter.