Jail for mother of three who worked at cannabis factory
A Vietnamese mother of three caught tending to plants in a cannabis factory has been jailed for two years.
Huong Thi Le (39) entered the UK illegally, hidden inside a bag with air holes in the back of a lorry, hoping for a better life.
She said she believed she was going to be looking after other people's children, but ended up being taken to a house in Evelyn Drive, near Narborough Road, Leicester, to work as a cannabis gardener.
Le denied producing cannabis in April and May this year, claiming she did not know the plants were cannabis or that what she was doing was illegal.
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But a jury at convicted her at a hearing at Leicester Crown Court earlier this week.
James Bide-Thomas, prosecuting, said a search warrant was executed at the house. Sophisticated growing equipment and 153 cannabis plants were discovered there.
There was a potential yield of 7.6 kilos – 16.7lbs – with a street value of £43,840.
The court heard Le's family paid 6,000 euros for her to flee her abusive and violent husband in Vietnam, where she was living in poverty.
Two of her children are being cared for by her parents and the third is with her husband.
She was hoping to send money back home to her family.
Justine Robinson, defending, said: "She was there for a month. Her role was limited to watering plants and removing seedlings from one pot to another."
Sentencing, Recorder Nirmal Shant said: "Willingly you were transported into this country illegally.
"You were placed in a house that was set up for you to be a gardener. It cost in the order of £25,000 to set up.
"The jury has rejected your account, that you didn't know or reasonably suspect that you were involved in the production of a controlled drug.
"These sort of outfits are rife.
"On the other side is your sad history and I've no doubt that those who employed you knew your vulnerabilities and it made you a target.
"Without gardeners, such as yourself, outfits like this couldn't flourish."
Le's laptop and £180, seized on her arrest, were confiscated by the court.
Le was told she would be automatically deported after serving half the sentence.