ELEVEN men have been convicted for their parts in setting up a cannabis farm in Castle Bytham.
The farm was run by an organised crime group and was capable of generating an annual yield of £2.75m.
Thirteen men were charged following an investigation by Staffordshire police.
Nine pleaded guilty, two were found guilty by a jury and two were acquitted following a two-month trial at Stafford Crown Court.
The investigation uncovered a complex set-up in huge barns at the farm. As well as more than 800 cannabis plants, police officers discovered 1,600 empty buckets prepared for drug cultivation. The barns had undergone extensive adaptation, costing about £1.4m, with generators, fans, lighting and ventilation equipment installed.
The men, mainly from Staffordshire and the West Midlands, were arrested following a five-month investigation as part of Staffordshire Police’s ongoing crackdown on drug dealers.
The investigation, led by the force’s serious and organised crime unit, involved more than 40 officers and specialist staff, including financial investigators. They were supported by officers and staff from Lincolnshire Police.
The farm’s owner Iain Brown, 60, from Chichester, Sussex, was convicted of conspiracy to produce and supply cannabis. His son Bruce Brown, 31, from Castle Bytham, was found not guilty of conspiracy to supply and produce cannabis.
Desmond Bayliss, 40, from Toxteth in Liverpool, was convicted of conspiracy to supply and produce cannabis while Russell Nicholls, 32, from Bilston, was found not guilty of conspiracy to supply and produce cannabis.
All four men had denied the charges.
Neil Bridges, 35, from Hammerwich, Burntwood, admitted conspiracy to supply and produce cannabis.
Paul Hicks, 40, from Solihull, admitted conspiracy to supply and produce cannabis.
Peter Bassett, 46, from Rugeley, admitted conspiracy to supply and produce cannabis.
Robert Eyland, 34, from Minworth, near Sutton Coldfield, admitted conspiracy to supply and produce cannabis.
John Stacey, 46, from Sutton Coldfield, admitted conspiracy to supply and produce cannabis.
Andrew Stacey, 28, from Sutton Coldfield, admitted conspiracy to supply and produce cannabis.
Tony Mobbs, 46, from Barton under Needwood, admitted conspiracy to supply and produce cannabis.
Barry Brearley, 65, from West Bromwich, admitted conspiracy to produce cannabis.
Shane Breen, 37, from Barton under Needwood, admitted the production of cannabis.
Detective Chief Inspector Jane Hewett, from Staffordshire Police, said: “The convictions are the culmination of an extensive investigation to thwart a large-scale, cannabis growing enterprise.
“This organised crime group, who had criminal links nationwide, was setting up one of the country’s biggest cannabis factory set-ups. They would meet on a car park off the A38 at Barton under Needwood before travelling to the farm.
“Excellent work by officers from our Serious and Organised Crime Unit meant we were able to thwart the enterprise in its early stages. We are also grateful for the support we had from our colleagues in Lincolnshire.”
She added: “There is no doubt that several of these offenders were living lavish lifestyles funded by drug crime. Significant amounts of cash were seized during the arrest operation and we will now use the Proceeds of Crime Act to strip them of every pound possible.”
The men will be sentenced at a later date.