A Vietnamese national illegally residing in Australia, caught in a $140,000 cannabis drying operation at Hamilton, has been jailed for eight months.
Hoa Le, 46, who is currently residing illegally due to an expired temporary visa, pleaded guilty in the Geelong court to trafficking cannabis.
A 45-year-old Vietnamese national Melbourne-based, who is on a temporary visa, is contesting similar charges.
Le has already served 194 days of his sentence and is expected to be taken into immigration detention when he completes his jail term in less than two months and be deported back to Vietnam.
Office of Public Prosecutions prosecutor Katherine Farrell said that on the afternoon of March 19 Le and the co-accused went from a property in Hamilton's George Street to another address in Horsham.
Le drove from a Hamilton service station where he was captured on security camera footage to Horsham.
The Horsham property was set-up as a cannabis growhouse and had undergone considerable modifications to house a crop.
Internal rooms were fitted with lights and ventilation and the windows were boarded up.
There was 21.33 kilograms of cannabis harvested from three bedrooms in the Horsham property.
The cannabis was loaded into garbage bags, placed in Le's car and then transported to Hamilton where it was placed in a rear bedroom at the George Street address.
It was spread onto drying racks which had been set up with extractions fans.
On March 20 police raided the George Street address and arrested Le and and the co-accused, who both attempted to flee.
In the rear bedroom officers located 7.6kg of dried cannabis, 2.76kg of cannabis leaf, 7.28kg of branches and 3.69kg of other material.
Police found keys to the Horsham property as well as unused sealed bags and other evidence relating to the Horsham property including photos of dried cannabis.
The 7.6kg of dried cannabis has an estimated street value of $140,000.
After information was passed on, Horsham police that night conducted a raid and uncovered 281 cannabis plants at the Horsham property.
When Le was interviewed, he said he was asked to help a friend and was being paid $1000 a week to help dry and package the cannabis.
He said he had only been in Hamilton for a couple of days.
Ms Farrell said only a jail term was an appropriate penalty because Le had an indispensable role in the illegal cannabis supply chain.
Le said he did not know who owned the house or cannabis, and only knew the co-accused through someone else.
He has no prior court appearances in Australia and had spent 194 days in pre-sentence detention.
Lawyer Michael Reardon said Le was from northern Vietnam, he had teenage sons and his wife ran a small convenience store.
He left his family to find work in Australia, arriving by boat in 2013 and spending time in detention at Christmas Island before being granted a bridging visa.
In Australia he found work fruit picking at farms over three years until 2018 before his bridging visa was cancelled in July 2019.
The lawyer said Le was trying to earn enough money to buy a ticket to return to Vietnam.
Mr Reardon said the offer of $1000 a week was attractive to go to Hamilton to assist in drying and packaging the cannabis for sale.
"Mr Le is at the bottom rung of the ladder in terms of the organisations," he said.
"He was prone to exploitation by those involved in the illegal business as he had no means to support his family and return home.
"He has been taken advantage of by a number of people and will inevitably be deported after serving his sentence."
Magistrate Ann McGarvie said the maximum penalty for trafficking cannabis was 15 years' imprisonment.
In imposing a sentence of eight months, she took into account Le had already served 194 days which would be counted as already served.
The magistrate said Le would likely be taken into immigration detention at the end of his jail term before being deported.
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