Million-pound cannabis production organised crime gang sent to prison
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Thirteen members of an organised crime group who ran a lucrative commercial drug empire across the UK have been sentenced to more than 55 years in prison.
It took three-days (September 13-15) at Northampton Crown Court to impose the sentences on the defendants, ending a successful 22-month investigation by Northamptonshire Police’s Serious and Organised Crime Team.
Between January 2020 and July last year, the men were part of a highly organised group who not only produced cannabis but also supplied wholesale quantities of the Class B drug to other gangs in Northamptonshire, the West Midlands and London.
The group operated from six locations – four in Northampton and one in both London and Surrey - using both residential and commercial properties to set up cannabis farms for their million-pound business.
Throughout the operation police gathered intelligence on the group who were seen visiting not only their production sites on a regular basis but also retailers to purchase more supplies and provisions for the gardeners housed at the locations to look after the crop.
On June 15, 2022, three of the defendants – Jack Lovesy, 38, Lee Carmichael, 42, and Ardit Shkodra, 36 – drove in convoy to a supermarket car park in Northampton, where Shkodra was seen to hand Carmichael a quantity of cannabis as Lovesy waited in the car.
Rahim Hidri, 30, was stopped by West Midlands Police on June 22 last year, at a waste disposal site in Birmingham, dumping items used in the cultivation of cannabis including plant stalks, root bundles, pots and chemical containers.
In fact, Hidri visited the site on four previous occasions, and another member of the group, Aldo Shkoza, 30, was also seen there several times, twice after his visits to cannabis farms in Hayes and Camberley.
All the defendants were seen visiting Shkodra’s home address in Baronson Gardens, Northampton, which was used as a ‘safe house’ to store goods for the criminal operation, with ‘bags’ seen to be removed on a regular basis.
The group shared and switched vehicles in a bid to avoid detection and wore hi-visibility clothing when taking part in criminality, including attending the cannabis grows, to appear to be engaged in ‘legitimate’ activity.
On June 29, 2022, officers discovered a cannabis farm in Balfour Road, Northampton, and Altin Bushi, 38, was arrested and subsequently charged with the production of cannabis at the address.
A further five cannabis grows were discovered in Bective Road, Reynard Way, Craven Street – all in Northampton – Newdene Avenue in Hayes, London and Bedford Avenue, and Frimley Green in Camberley, Surrey.
From the six cannabis farms, a total of 1,582 cannabis plants with an estimated potential yield of 70 kilograms were recovered, representing a growth of more than 200 kilograms a year. It is believed that this would have raised between £625,000 to £1 million at wholesale level.
A further 10 kilograms of harvested cannabis, packaged for onwards supply, were recovered from Shkodra’s home address, along with a credit list of money owed running to hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Also seized within the Baronson Gardens address was more than £40,000 in cash and over 40 mobile phones. All of which were examined which showed the group were in regular contact organising the production and onward supply of multiple kilograms of cannabis to customers.
Eleven of the gang pleaded guilty to conspiracy to produce cannabis and conspiracy to supply a controlled Class B drug and were sentenced to:
• Rahim Hidri aged 30, of Dairy Way, Kibworth Harcourt in Leicestershire - seven years and six months • Emmanuel Marku, aged 29, of Hardy Drive, Hardingstone, Northampton - six years and eight months • Aldo Shkoza, aged 30, of Sherwood Gardens, Bermondsey, London - five years and four months • Ardit Shkodra, aged 36, of Baronson Gardens, Abington, Northampton - five years and four months • Dodi Lleshi, aged 31, of Hardy Drive, Hardingstone, Northampton - three years • Albertin Huti, aged 26, and 24-year-old Fatjon Marnikollaj were arrested at a cannabis farm in Bective Road, Kingsthorpe, Northampton – both received 42 months • Durim Geguja, aged 36, was arrested at a cannabis farm in Craven Street, The Mounts, Northampton – 42 months • Vlad Bushi, aged 29, was arrested at a cannabis farm in Reynard Way, Sunnyside Northampton – 42 months • Roland Bushi, aged 28, was arrested at a cannabis farm in Newdene Avenue, Hayes – 42 months • Altin Bushi, aged 38, was arrested at the cannabis farm in Balfour Road, Kingsthorpe Hollow, Northampton – 42 months.
Jack Lovesy, aged 38, of Bowden Road, St James, Northampton, faced the same conspiracy to supply cannabis charge as the above defendants, as well as a second count of being concerned in the supply of a Class B drug.
Despite, initially pleading not guilty to the conspiracy charge, Lovesy changed his plea on the day of his trial and was sentenced to five years and four months for both offences. While Lee Carmichael, aged 42, of Lingfield Walk, Kingswood, Corby, pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of a controlled Class B drug and was sentenced to 27 months.
Detective Sergeant Keith Morson of Northamptonshire Police’s Serious Organised Crime Team said: “This complex investigation took officers across numerous county borders to collate overwhelming evidence of this highly organised group’s serious criminal activity.
“The fact that so many properties across the country, with varying amounts of cannabis growing at each, not only shows the level of sophistication shown by the defendants, but also the dedication and commitment shown by all departments within Northamptonshire Police involved to bring this successful prosecution.
“The officer in the case, Detective Constable Lewis, methodically identified all evidence against the numerous suspects to show their individual roles and levels of culpability within the structured group. This has been reflected in the heavy sentences which have been passed on all of those involved in this serious criminality.
“Northamptonshire Police is dedicated to reducing the harm that drugs supply and organised crime brings to the local communities.”
Last May, Chief Constable Nick Adderley launched the Force’s Matters of Priority for the next three years, and along with serious violence, serious and organised crime, violence against women and girls, drug harm was included. More details at www.northants.police.uk
If anyone has concerns about drug dealing, or someone becoming drawn into gang culture, please report it to us on 101, online at www.northants.police.uk/ro or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.