Two Vietnamese ‘crop sitters’ who were arrested at a Wendouree grow house earlier this year have been jailed.
Quyen Nguyen, 26, and Huy Nquyen, 37 - men unknown to each other - both pleaded guilty in a County Court sitting at Ballarat to one count of cultivating a commercial quantity of cannabis.
The Vietnamese nationals, who were found inside a grow house at 13 Edward Crescent, were jailed for 18 months with a non-parole period of 12 months.
The court heard police found 285 cannabis plants, totaling 142.63kg without their roots, at the Wendouree property on March 2 of this year. Hydroponic systems had been set up in eight rooms of the house, with the plants varying from two-weeks-old to 14-weeks-old.
An electrical bypass system had also been set up, enabling power to be utilised at the house without being detected on the metre.
Police watched the house for a month, observing Quyen Nguyen’s car come and go a number of times, before executing the search warrant at the house.
Both men originally refused to let police in the house, with Quyen Nguyen then attempting to run out a rear door and Huy Nguyen hiding in a kitchen cupboard.
Quyen Nguyen’s barrister, Cameron Marshall, said his client was currently in Australia on a student visa and had no intentions of being involved in criminal activity when he first came to the country in 2012.
He said his client, who had no priors, was first asked to look after the cannabis plants when he met a man during work at a strawberry farm.
Recruited to assist with the cultivation by watering and caring for the plants, Mr Marshall said his involvement went no further.
“It is simply a case where a young person has made a poor decision,” he said.
Mr Marshall added his client felt a great deal of shame as a result of the offending.
Huy Nguyen’s barrister, Melissa Mahady, said her client was also recruited during a fruit picking job.
She said her client agreed to a loan from a man to help pay for his son’s surgery in Vietnam, but when the time come to repay the loan he could not.
Ms Mahady said he was told he would need to go to the house and would be paid $250 a day to pay off the loan.
She said he felt pressured to get involved. She added her client’s visa had expired and he would be deported following any sentence.
Both men have already served 168 days.
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