Three Albanian cannabis farmers found hiding in the loft of a house when police raided it have been locked up.

Alberto Loka, Riza Manuka and Besard Muca, were in the process of setting up the fledgling illegal enterprise when Durham Constabulary stormed the property in Darlington.

All three were arrested at the scene after 51 cannabis were found in one room and vital growing equipment was also recovered following the raid on August 10 last year.

Annelise Augstad, prosecuting, told Teesside Crown Court that police also discovered they gang were illegally extracting electricity when they searched the house on Brinkburn Road.

The Northern Echo: Police raiding the house in Brinkburn Road, DarlingtonPolice raiding the house in Brinkburn Road, Darlington (Image: Durham Police)

She said: “They discovered a cannabis farm with 51 plants in the bedroom. There was hydroponics, transmitters, light fitting, and heat lamps, in place.

“All the windows were blacked out with curtains and the bedroom on the first floor contained the equipment and was in the process of being adapted to grow more cannabis.

“The three defendants were in the loft and come out to present themselves to the police.”

The court heard how the plants had a nominal value of £510 but once mature were capable of producing cannabis with a street value of £26,000.

The Northern Echo: Alberto LokaAlberto Loka (Image: Durham Constabulary)

Police recovered three mobile phones but were unable to access Loka’s iPhone as it was password protected. The other two mobile phones showed regular phone call between Manuka and Muca.

Loka, 26-year-old Manuka, and Muca, 24, all of Brinkburn Road, Darlington, pleaded guilty to being involved in the cultivation of cannabis.

Chris Baker, representing 24-year-old Loka, said his client was an illegal immigrant who had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.

The Northern Echo: Bersard MucaBersard Muca (Image: Durham Constabulary)

While Shaun Dryden, representing Muca, said his client had been in the country for around 12-months illegally before he was arrested and remanded in custody.

The Northern Echo: Riza ManukaRiza Manuka (Image: Durham Constabulary)

Manuka represented himself during the sentencing hearing and accepted the case put forward by the prosecution.

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Recorder Richard Herrmann told the defendants that they were all being treated as low level farmers without any influence on those above them in the supply chain as he sentenced them.

He said: “When the police raided the address the farm was in its infancy, apparently in the process of being set up.

“There were 51 immature plants with a limited financial value but it could have made £25,000 at street value.”

All three defendants were jailed for 12-months but told they would only serve a few more weeks in custody as they had been on remand for five months.