POLICE have seized live and dried cannabis plants with an estimated value of $261,000 during a raid on a Mt Eliza “crop house”.
Eight Mornington detectives smashed their way into the Wimbledon Av property at 7am on Wednesday 26 August where they found 87 plants being grown in bedrooms and bathrooms, as well as an array of drug paraphernalia, including special lighting, hydroponic equipment, extraction fans and charcoal filters.
Police said electrical wiring to heat the crops had been run directly from the street supply, bypassing the house’s electricity meter to avoid detection.
No one was home at the time of the raid, but police that afternoon arrested a 34-year-old man who they spotted driving slowly past the rented house before attempting a U-turn.
Identified as the lessee and one of four tenants of the house, the man was arrested and charged with cultivating a drug of dependence and trafficking a drug of dependence.
He was due to face Frankston Magistrates’ Court yesterday (Monday) for a bail hearing and was further remanded until a date to be fixed.
Police are looking for the three other tenants, aged in their 20s, who are all listed as having international student visas to attend a private education provider. Documents found at the house list names, classes and letters from the college demanding their attendance.
Detective Senior Sergeant Nick Vallas said “crop sitters” were typically “students” – but many would not pass any tests.
“They are not poor students trying to make their way – they are pawns of a king pin in the drugs’ trade,” he said.
“We believe the man we arrested may be higher up the totem pole.”
Detective Vallas credited Mornington’s Constable Megan Zurek with getting the “original sniff that they were running a crop house there and the tasking unit followed up with the raid”.
“We had been notified [by a member of the public] that suspicious activity was being conducted there. We then called in the police helicopter which used infra-red imaging equipment to detect hot-spots in the ceiling – a tell-tale sign of large-scale hydroponic drug activity.
“Each plant is worth $3000 and we got 87 of them, so the property could have been producing $500,000 worth of marijuana a year. We are now making inquiries to ascertain how long they have been growing crops there.
“It is a good result. We disrupted a place of exchange and also the supply of illegal substances. Our intelligence shows a link between house burglaries and drugs. And, often when we raid criminals’ homes, we find drugs, cash and firearms.”
Constable Zurek said the warrant was “a reminder to anyone in the peninsula area thinking of cultivating or manufacturing drugs that police are continually targeting this kind of criminal behaviour”.
“Police will take action where we are provided with information and will work to detect and disrupt the supply of illicit drugs.”
Anyone with information can contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or make a confidential report at crimestoppersvic.com.au