A 35-year-old man has been jailed for three years and two months over one of the most sophisticated hydroponic cannabis-growing operations ever seen in a West Australian house.
Troy Anthony Boyle owned the Wanneroo property where in 2014 police found 270 marijuana plants weighing more than 150 kilograms, 11.2kg of cannabis material including 4.46kg of "head", and $3772 in cash stashed in a microwave oven.
To power the growing lights, three extra electrical meter boxes were installed at the house, along with a diesel generator in a soundproofed booth.
The cultivation set-up also included plasterboard-covered windows and a cloning chamber, and was so extensive, it took police two days to search the house.
The District Court of WA heard on Thursday Boyle even had a second fuel tank on his car so he could transport diesel for the generator.
He initially claimed a tenant was responsible for the operation, sending police searching for a man named on a fake rental agreement, but Boyle's DNA was found on gloves and clothing at the house.
He pleaded guilty 10 days before he was due to go to trial after a co-offender's willingness to give evidence "tipped him over the edge", the court heard.
Boyle owed associates - referred to in court as "Mr Bigs" - almost $10,000 for methylamphetamines and they'd intimidated him into participating in the syndicate, physically pushing him around and threatening to throw him off a balcony.
They bankrolled the operation, but the qualified plaster was "much more than just a babysitter", installing reticulation, fans and other equipment, and recruiting staff to trim and package the cannabis.
"You were an essential service provider, even if you weren't the mastermind," Judge Philip McCann said.
"You were a valuable part of a syndicate of preternatural loathsomeness."
He said that while Boyle wasn't motivated by naked greed, the house had been entirely and permanently converted into a cannabis-growing factory, with his bosses clearly intending to run it for all it was worth.
"It was so professional, it was never going to be a one-off," Judge McCann said.
The operation was still running long after the debt was paid off, when there was nothing to stop Boyle "just walking away", the judge said.
He said experienced police investigators had remarked it was the most sophisticated hydroponic set-up they had ever seen.
It was the second biggest Judge McCann had heard of in WA, however.
He said a cannabis factory in the Sandstone area in WA's remote mid-west had been laid on a concrete pad and had an underground enclosure for the generator, which was kept going by an "off his face" man who had even built a caretaker's cottage to live in.
"It was incredible," the judge remarked.
Judge McCann also said it was a concern Boyle had only been fined $500 after he was caught with 12 cannabis plants at the same Wanneroo property in 2012.
There should have been "a more robust intervention" on that occasion, he said.