Drugs gang facing jail over one of Britain’s biggest ever cannabis farming operations with farm in North Walsham
- Credit: copyright ARCHANT 2017
A crime gang is facing jail after using stolen electricity to run one of Britain's biggest ever cannabis farming operations, with one of the farms operating in North Walsham.
The farm was uncovered at Laundry Loke in the town in 2015 and 1,907 cannabis plants were seized. It was just one of a vast network where plants worth £26 million were cultivated by ringleader Michael Edward Corcoran, 50, in specially-constructed two-storey wooden sheds. One of the factories was rented out under the joke name of 'Martin Green'.
Police launched an undercover surveillance operation and recovered nearly 16,500 cannabis plants across all the gang's farms during a series of raids between 2013 and 2015.
The farms guzzled more than £30,000 worth of free electricity a month while active because the gang tampered with the supply to avoid paying.
Gang members, including Corcoran and Stephen Creed, of Beccles Road in St Olaves, have since pleaded guilty or been convicted of involvement in the conspiracy and will be sentenced at the Old Bailey in July.
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The others are Jay Corcoran,28, James Allen, 39, Andrew Prowse, 32, Alan Marquiss, 69, Stephen Macey, 25, Colin Walls, 52, Terrance Murphy, 47, Stuart Sollis, 51, David Graham, 50, Stefan-Alex Henderson-Clarke, 27, David Heath, 48, Christopher Marsh, 30, Stefan-Alex Henderson-Clarke, 27, and Damon Mills, 18.
Corcoran's daughter Ellie Corcoran, 21, was cleared last week after she claimed she thought her father was running a business buying and selling equipment for growing tomatoes. Garry McIntrye, 36, was also acquitted.
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Prosecutor Dale Sullivan told the Old Bailey: 'Between 2013 and 2015 this crime group produced industrial quantities of cannabis at multiple locations around the South East.
'These cannabis factories contained thousands of cannabis plants and had the capability of producing an annual amount yielding a cash return measured in the millions of pounds.'
'Michael Corcoran senior was in effect the head of this crime group and had overarching control of the cannabis factories.
'The others in this case all assisted the enterprise of cannabis production at different locations.'
Police were first tipped off about the gang's activities in January 2013 by a member of the public living near industrial units known as the 'old taxi rank' in Canal Basin, Gravesend.
Allen had rented the premises using the name 'Martin Green' and was also involved in leasing out another unit in Rochester High Street.
The Rochester factory was the first to be uncovered on June 28 2013 when officers were called to reports of a burglary.
On June 17 2015 police were called to a disturbance taking place at the Canal Basis site and found a small potted cannabis plant lying on the floor.
A search of the first industrial unit revealed four separate growing rooms constructed from chipboard.
The electricity supply had been tampered with to bypass the meter, costing the power company more than £5,000 a month.
A second unit inside a large double-sized warehouse had also been illegally connected to the power supply causing an estimated loss of £14,805 for ever 30 days the factory was active.
At a third unit officers found another large warehouse and a Ford Transit linked to Corcoran Snr and Prowse.
In total 9,888 plants were seized from the Canal Basis site, which was capable of producing a crop four times a year, with a potential annual street value for the drugs of more than £16m.
The site illegally used an estimate £44,585 worth of electricity every six months.
Another farm was uncovered at Laundry Loke in October 2015 and 1,907 plants were seized.
Around £30,000 of electricity had been used illegally in total since Graham leased the unit in October 2014.
Graham also leased a unit at an industrial estate in Staplehurst Road, Sittingbourne, Kent, from May 2015.
When it was searched in December 2015, officers found a total of 4,633 cannabis plants and arrested Marquiss, Mills, Marsh and Macey.
Detective Inspector Tom Smith, from Norfolk Constabulary, said: 'This was the largest cannabis factory ever discovered in Norfolk during a joint operation with Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate.
'The operation was complex and time consuming but demonstrates that organised crime and drug trafficking networks operating in Norfolk will be targeted and closed down.
The gang members
• James Allen, of Woolwich Road, Abbey Wood, southeast London, pleaded guilty to five counts of conspiring to produce cannabis and three counts of abstracting electricity.
• Stephen Macey, of Commercial Road, Paddock Wood, Kent, pleaded guilty to five counts of conspiring to produce cannabis and five counts of abstracting electricity.
• Christopher Marsh and Damon Mills, both of Ethelbert Road, Margate, Kent, admitted one count of conspiring to produce cannabis and one count of abstracting electricity.
• In November 2016 Michael Edward Corcoran, of Mount Avenue in Yalding, was convicted of seven counts of conspiring to produce cannabis and five counts of abstracting electricity.
• Michael Jay Corcoran, of Odo Rise in Gillingham, Kent, Stefan-Alex Henderson Clarke, of Kennedy Walk in Walworth, southeast London, were convicted of four counts of conspiring to produce cannabis and four counts of abstracting electricity.
• Stuart Sollis, of Bowyer Street, Camberwell, southeast London, was convicted of five counts of conspiring to produce cannabis and four counts of abstracting electricity.
• David Heath, of Wentworth Crescent, Peckham, southeast London, was convicted of three counts of conspiring to produce cannabis and three counts of abstracting electricity.
• Colin Walls, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to produce cannabis and was found guilty of two further counts of conspiring to produce cannabis and three counts of abstracting electricity.
• Terrance Murphy, of Caspian Way, Purfleet, Essex, was convicted of one count of conspiring to produce cannabis and one count of abstracting electricity.
• Stephen Creed, of Beccles Road, St Olaves, Great Yarmouth, was convicted of one count of conspiring to produce cannabis and one count of abstracting electricity.
• David Graham, of Plaistow Lane, Bromley, pleaded guilty to five counts of conspiring to produce cannabis and five counts of abstracting electricity before his trial.
• Andrew Prowse, of Southampton Way, Camberwell, southeast London, pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiracy to produce cannabis during his trial.
• Alan Marquiss, of Disraeli Close, Thamesmead, southeast London, pleaded guilty to one count conspiracy to produce cannabis and one of conspiracy to abstract electricity between 1 October 2014 and 15 December 2015.
• Ellie Corcoran, of Commercial Road, Paddock Wood, and Garry McIntrye, of Alfred Road, Brentwood, Essex, were both cleared of three counts of conspiracy to produce cannabis and three of conspiracy to abstract electricity.