A Vietnamese man has been jailed for 18 months for his involvement in a “sophisticated” cannabis grow house at Miners Rest.
As part of an investigation, police searched the Howe Street house on October 31, 2016, to find 332 cannabis plants over seven rooms and a further 91 cannabis plants in small grow houses.
Over 87 days, more than $26,000 worth of electricity had allegedly been bypassed.
Duy Cao, 27, pleaded guilty at the County Court in Ballarat on Thursday to cultivating a commercial quantity of cannabis and theft of electricity.
The court was told Cao rented the property with his girlfriend, a co-accused and he had been hired to look after the plants for a month.
Crown prosecutor Patrick Bourke said when police arrived to search the house, the front and back doors were locked. The front door was triple locked and had been barricaded.
Once police gained entry, they saw Cao and a co-accused allegedly flee the house but they were arrested.
Mr Bourke said police noticed a strong cannabis smell, false walls inside the house, hydroponic systems in seven rooms and smaller grow houses set up in the kitchen.
The court was told Cao had been looking after the house for more than a month, feeding and watering the plants.
Mr Bourke said Cao, who was living in Australia illegally due to an expired Visa, harvested the plants and another person would take them down.
At the time, Cao told police he did not think a grow house was illegal because there were other houses in Melbourne.
Judge Gavan Meredith told Cao it was a sophisticated cultivation cannabis venture.
“You provided an important buffer to those higher up,” Judge Meredith said.
He said he was satisfied Cao was remorseful and had pleaded guilty early.
Cao was sentenced to 18 months’ jail with a non-parole period of 11 months. He has already served 227 days in custody.
A Vietnamese interpreter was used to explain the details of the plea hearing to Cao.
Cao was supported in court by his family.