Five people have been arrested after more than 1,400 cannabis plants with an estimated street value of $2.8 million (US$2.2 million) were seized on Wednesday, Feb. 14, according to New South Wales police.
Officers raided six Maitland homes in the Hunter Valley region following a three-month long investigation, reported AAP.
The homes were alleged fronts for a sophisticated cannabis growing operation. Police found more than 400 mature plants from one home alone, reported The Herald.
Detective Superintendent Craig Jackson said the houses were made to look normal from the outside — where a baby walker and Christmas lights were positioned at the front of the house. However, police said there were still obvious signs.
1400 cannabis plants, five charged, seized in Hunter valley Raids https://t.co/BWuHGBSmlD
— NSW Police (@nswpolice) February 14, 2018
He said the houses had boarded-up windows and low-key activity, along with a strong smell of cannabis.
“They will do everything they can to fly under the radar … [but] they do not present as your typical neighbour,” Jackson said, reported The Herald.
The houses were allegedly fitted with dozens of grow lights, hundreds of meters worth of wiring, fake walls, and watering and ventilation systems.
“Whoever is behind these indoor cannabis crops has gambled with not being detected in a regional area and they’ve been proved seriously mistaken,” Jackson said in a statement.
The five people arrested are Vietnamese nationals where two are illegal immigrants. A 25-year-old male student, 37-year-old male illegal immigrant, 26-year-old male illegal immigrant, 23-year-old woman and a 48-year-old man were remanded and charged with cultivating prohibited plant – large commercial quality.
Police are investigating whether the five are involved in a criminal syndicate, according to the statement.
They have been refused bail and are scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 15.