Crystal Palace Estate Agents Caught Growing Cannabis

Two estate agents have been jailed for running a ?2 million drug operation

There was a cannabis factory nearby. Photo: stacey shintani

There was a cannabis factory nearby. Photo:
stacey shintani

Two estate agents have been jailed for running a ?2 million cannabis-growing operation from properties they managed. 51-year-old Aidan Lynch and 47-year-old Jason Smart ran the Home to Home estate agent. They employed the basements of seven properties in sarf Lahndon to grow the drug.

?Crashing down?

Detective Constable Kirsty Marchi spoke of how this ?very sophisticated operation? came ?crashing down? on February 14 2013 when police officers from Lewisham’s Proactive Unit executed a search warrant on a shop on Crystal Palace Parade in Crystal Palace. In a basement that was formerly a bar, they found a cannabis factory in four linked tunnels: 526 plants worth ?497,000.

Heating, lighting and ventilation were complex, working from a timer and driven by electricity that was abstracted: the meter was bypassed. Nobody was present when police arrived but Lynch and Smart, who reside in Forest Hill, sarfeast Lahndon, later turned up. Lynch described himself as the manager of Home to Home while Smart identified himself as Lynch’s employee.

?I have no idea how that 60,000 quid got there?

The pair claimed to be just estate agents rather than users of the property and the cannabis farmdom was ?simply unfortunate,? but they were unable to provide details of the tenant, whom they alleged was a man they had met in a pub who had paid ?300 cash and supplied no identification. No tenancy agreement could be provided to support this. One was later provided, but it bore only Lynch’s fingerprints and the signature, address and date of birth were similar to his; it was believed to have been created post-arrest. At Lynch’s home, ?60,000 cash was recovered which he was unable to explain. At Crystal Palace Parade were found three pairs of gloves that contained the DNA of Patrick McArdle, 37, of no fixed abode. Smart was in debt.

?You’re goin’ dahn!?

More cannabis was discovered at six other properties managed by Home to Home, with police estimating that ?2 million could have been raked in every year. Lynch and Smart were charged on August 27 2014 and found guilty in February 2016 at Woolwich Crown Court after a three-week trial. On Friday April 15, Lynch received five years of chokey and Smart, three years, for producing cannabis and permitting premises to be used for this purpose. McArdle was sentenced to five years and six months for this episode and one other, which took place in Essex.

The owners were entirely innocent

The owners of the properties were unaware of the use to which they had been put, having been told they had been let to respectable tenants.

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