By Mitchell Clarke
A Vietnamese national has been jailed after police uncovered a “sophisticated” cannabis growing operation inside his Kooweerup home.
Le Van Pham, 48, was sentenced in the County Court on Friday 19 February after pleading guilty to two charges of cultivating a narcotic plant, including a commercial quantity, and one charge of theft of electricity.
The court heard Pham cultivated the cannabis inside his Bollen Way home between 2 June 2017 and 1 June 2020.
Police executed a search warrant on the property on 2 June last year where Pham attempted to flee over the back fence because he was “scared”.
A full hydroponic set up, costing about $20,000 to set up, was located inside the home.
In total, 162 plants and three leafy stems – weighing a total 82.8 kilograms – were located in four rooms of the property.
During the raid, police also found an illegal electrical bypass in the master bedroom.
Pham later admitted to drilling a hole into wall and putting a cable inside because the normal power points “wouldn’t tolerate the high electricity usage”.
In his police interview, Pham told police he grew the plants in batches of about 40 at a time.
He explained in detail his methodology of growing the plants, including the movement of plants from room to room, watering schedule, feeding the plants with fertilising and timing of the lights for 12 hours a day.
When the crop was matured, Pham would cut it up, dry it out and take it to a place near Sunshine and sell for over $10,000, the court heard.
“It was common ground that this cultivation was done for significant financial gain,” Judge Todd said.
Pham initially came to Australia to travel, but stayed illegally and decided to grow the cannabis.
But the counsel argued Pham’s conduct was born out of a “desperate attempt to rise out of a lifetime of relentless poverty” and provide a better life for his family.
“It appeared you were not living in luxury,” Judge Todd added.
Court documents revealed that Pham, a father of three, would send about $3000 to his family in Vietnam each month.
While living in Australia, he also fathered a young son with a new partner.
The court heard Pham has no prior convictions and was described as a person of “good character”.
Judge Todd sentenced him to two years and nine months imprisonment. He must serve 18 months before he is eligible for parole.
Pham has already served 262 days of pre-sentence detention.
Once released from jail, Pham is likely to be deported.