A man who worked in a car wash in Leicester before losing his job was found in a house full of cannabis plants valued at £70,000 less than two months later. Adrian Kurmekaj claimed he was a gardener at a cannabis farm, but phone records presented in court as evidence suggested he was a gambler instead.
Prosecutor Piers Norsworthy told Plymouth Crown Court the 20-year-old’s arrest came after Devon cops stopped two cars on the A38 as they headed into Plymouth on August 25 from last year. Inside the cars they found Fatmir Kurmekaj, 34, from High Wycombe and Fatjon Kurmekaj, 36, from The Crescent, Plymouth.
Both men eventually pleaded guilty to the production of Class B cannabis, reports PlymouthLive. Mr Norsworthy told the court that police found bunches of keys on the two men which were linked to a number of properties in the town – two of which had been converted “to cannabis factories”.
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Police raided two properties – Kingsley Road in Mutley and Warleigh Avenue in Keyham – forcing entry at each location. And at each property, officers found a large cannabis grow operation and a lone male inside.
Albanian immigrant Teslim Muhmutag, found on Kingsley Road property was then imprisoned for seven months at Truro Crown Court. Adrian Kurmekaj – cousin of Fatmir and Fatjon – was in the Warleigh Avenue property, in bed.
Mr Norsworthy explained that it had been transformed “into a sophisticated and substantial cannabis farm”, with parts of a floor and ceiling between two apartments dismantled to allow the whole house to be devoted to the plant cultivation, and a ladder connecting the two.
Mr Norsworthy said phone analysis showed a ‘clear connection’ between Adrian Kurmekaj and his two cousins. He said that less than 75 minutes after Fatmir and Fatjon were arrested, Adrian Kurmekaj called them three times.
Officers found Adrian knew when they were due to arrive and was clearly worried when they didn’t. Further investigation revealed that on July 3, 2021, Adrian Kurmekaj messaged Fatjon which discussed over “4.5 pounds for Wednesday”, with Fatjon replying that he “has a beer mate – I have one 8 for you tomorrow – will have the rest of the money too”.
The court heard that in the months before their arrest – between May 1 and August 26 – Teslim Muhmutag had made three calls to Adrian Kurmekaj and none to Fatmir and Fatjon. But Adrian had made 738 interactions to and from Fatmir and Fatjon during that time. He explained that although Adrian claimed to be just a gardener, it turned out that because he spoke better English, he was also responsible for talking to a hydroponics store in Newport as well as sorting out the bills. and deliver the letters.
Mr Norsworthy said that based on police assessments, the yield of 109 plants at the Warleigh Avenue address could result in between 4.8kg and 7kg, which could be worth between £3,500 and £8,000 per kilo – meaning the haul was worth between £24,000 and £35,000 at an average of £5,000 per kilo. He said if sold by the ounce it could be worth between £34,000 and £50,000 and if sold by the gram it could be worth between £50,000 and £70,000.
The court heard Adrian Kurmekaj told police he was £22,000 in debt and had only been in England for two years – and in Plymouth for two months. He claimed that he was allowed to leave to buy food or that food was brought to him. In mitigation, his lawyer Michael Green said Adrian Kurmekaj came to the UK and worked at a car wash in Leicester before losing that job and then moving to Plymouth.
Judge Robert Linford described the cannabis farm as a “genuinely commercial operation” which was “capable of producing a significant amount of cannabis” and that there was regular contact between him and his cousins Fatjon and Fatmir Kurmekaj who were to be condemned. He accepted Adrian Kurmekaj’s first guilty plea, giving him quarter credit. As a result, he was sentenced to 30 months in prison.
Fatmir Kurmekaj and Fatjon Kurmekaj have already pleaded guilty to producing a class B drug and are both due to be sentenced on April 22.