House arrest for residential grow-op

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A single father of three who was convicted of producing marijuana and possession for the purpose of trafficking has been handed concurrent 18-month conditional sentences for the crimes.

Nhuc Minh Ta, 48, learned his fate earlier this year in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster.

According to the reasons for sentence, officers with Surrey RCMP's Marijuana Enforcement Team found a "relatively sophisticated" grow-op while executing a search warrant at a home in the 17200-block of 64A Street on Sept. 1, 2010.

The home's basement was divided into five separate grow rooms containing a total 584 plants at different stages of development; upstairs, five terrariums with 287 marijuana clones were located.

At trial, held last year on Jan. 7-10 and Aug. 19, value of the crop was estimated at between $196,000 and $305,000.

The court also heard the residence had had extensive renovations, including the installation of an exhaust system that ran from the basement, through two floors and into the attic. As well, it had a hydro bypass.

During the search, police located a pair of pants containing Ta's wallet and driver's licence.

In determining sentence Jan. 23, Justice Richard Goepel considered that Ta has no prior criminal record, has been on bail without incident since the grow-op was discovered and that he is the main support for his three children, aged 15 to 19 years old, and his 86-year-old mother.

"Outside of this matter, he appears to have been a law-abiding and contributing member to society since coming to this country in 1987," Goepel found.

Aggravating factors were the size and sophistication of the grow-op, and its location.

"This operation was undertaken in a residential neighbourhood and posed potential dangers to others in the neighbourhood both from the violence that can be associated with grow operations and the serious risk that can be caused by an electrical by-pass," Goepel found.

"Mr. Ta stood to profit greatly from his enterprise. Absent any evidence to the contrary, I infer his sole motive was greed."

Crown had argued that a jail term of 15 months was appropriate, along with a weapons prohibition, a DNA order and forfeiture of goods seized during the 2010 search.

Defense counsel asked Goepel to impose a conditional sentence.

Conditions of Ta's term include one year of house arrest during which he may only leave his home for work, court or medical appointments, or religious-services, with the exception of four hours per week on a Saturday or Sunday for errands or exercise.

For the final six months of the term, Ta was ordered to abide by a curfew of 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Goepel also imposed a weapons prohibition, ordered Ta to submit a DNA sample and ordered forfeiture of the items seized by police.


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