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Three Worcester defendants ordered to repay more than £300,000

Three men who pleaded guilty in September 2016 for their involvement in a subterranean cannabis cultivation on land off Blackpole Road, Worcester have been ordered to pay back a total of more than £300,000.

The criminal investigation began when employees of Western Power Distribution (WPD) were investigating irregularities with power supply in the area. A warrant was executed at the site by Police in October 2015. Two large (approx. 40ft in length) shipping containers were discovered buried below ground, to aid the concealment a stable block with concrete base had been constructed on top of the containers.

The containers were fully serviceable with an illegal electricity connection. Whilst no plants were growing at the time it was fully set up with lighting, fans and ventilation.

In December 2016, Judge Cole sentenced James Worrall, 32-years-old, to 43 months imprisonment, Michael Lee, 57-years-old, to 32 months imprisonment and Alexander Rogers, 33-years-old, to 29 months imprisonment for being concerned in the production of a controlled Class B drug-cannabis. Lee also pleaded guilty to abstracting electricity at the site between March 2014 and October 2015.

Confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 began. Confiscation Orders in respect of two of the defendants (Worrall and Rogers) were resolved in March 2018. The proceedings were brought to a conclusion on Thursday 13 September by Judge Tindal at Hereford Crown Court with a Confiscation Order for Michael Lee.

James Worrall was ordered to repay available assets of £13,979.98 and his benefit from his general criminal conduct was set at £142,305.91.

Alexander Rogers was ordered to repay available assets of £34,239.63 and his benefit from his criminal conduct was set at £60,000.

Michael Lee was ordered to repay available assets of £108,885.28 with his benefit from general criminal conduct set at £108,885.28.

All outstanding benefit from criminal conduct is a lifetime debt owed until such time as it is fully repaid.

Detective Inspector Emma Wright of the Economic Crime Unit said, "West Mercia Police is committed to tackling serious and organised crime in order to protect vulnerable people from harm.

"This includes removing assets from those who have benefited from the proceeds of such crime.

"The orders granted in respect of this group represent the results of a time-consuming criminal investigation and linked financial investigation.

"The results mean those who have benefited from these offences will be stripped of their assets and demonstrate that ultimately crime does not pay."

West Mercia Police is committed to tackling serious and organised crime (SOC). Protect is a campaign being run by West Mercia Police and Warwickshire Police alongside a range of partner agencies to tackle serious and organised crime.

The broad-ranging operation covers four key areas of activity:

Pursue - prosecuting and disrupting those involved in SOC

Prevent - stopping individuals from becoming involved in SOC

Protect - increased levels of protection against SOC

Prepare - reducing the impact of SOC where it occurs

If you would like to report any concerns about serious and organised crime in your local area, please contact West Mercia Police on 101. If it is an emergency and a crime is taking place always ring 999. Alternatively you can call independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Issued: 12pm, Monday 17 September, MC, Corporate Communications

Published 17/09/18