Eugenijus Nikitsais, 29, Rimvydas Patasius, 34, and Aleksandras Matiusenko, 37, were caught after officers received a tip-off from members of the public about a premises in Hallaton Road, Welland.
Officers arrived on 19 April last year and noticed curtains had been stapled to the windows and some of the windows had been boarded up completely. They also noticed a BMW parked in the driveway with its window down and a wallet on the dashboard.
They rang the doorbell and heard a mobile phone activation from behind the door. However, after getting no answer the officers rang the doorbell again, but this time there was no mobile phone activation.
They looked through the letterbox and saw two men talking in the hallway and asked them to come to the door. Patasius answered the door and officers told him his car had been left unlocked with a wallet on the dashboard. They asked him for his details, which he didn’t want to divulge, but he did let the officers in.
Inside, officers heard the hum of industrial fans and soon found a cannabis factory. Patasius and Nikitsais were arrested and more than 60 plants were discovered in two rooms with an estimated street value of up to £50,000.
Inside Nikitsais’ vehicle parked around the corner was a set of keys and notes of two other addresses. At one, an industrial unit in Alfric Square, Woodston, officers found a number of tents containing more than 4,500 cannabis saplings with a street value of more than £2 million. They also discovered paperwork leading to another address and naming Matiusenko.
While conducting the search, police were alerted by a member of the public to another industrial unit just around the corner and often used by Matiusenko.
When officers arrived at this unit, Matiusenko pulled up in a car before driving off at speed. Officers tracked the vehicle and caught up with it in Crabtree, Paston.
All three men pleaded guilty to production of a class B drug, namely cannabis, and were sentenced at Peterborough Crown Court on Friday (4 June). Nikitsais and Patasius were both sentenced to six years and three months in prison and Matiusenko to five years and three months.
A fourth man, Andrius Kucinskas, 30, of no fixed address, was sentenced to 16 months in prison earlier this year for his part in the production of cannabis at the Hallaton Road premises.
Summing up, Judge Sean Enright said: “I have no doubt in my own mind that when the three of you embarked on criminality, you were fully aware and alert not only re own behaviour, but also the very likely consequences should you be found at the various premises producing class B drugs.
“None of you could plead naivety - this is an extremely serious offence. The information I have read in the body of agreed documentation is very indicative of this being a sophisticated, professional set-up.”
Detective Constable Lee Womack, who investigated, said: “Thanks to information received from members of the public, we were able to get warrants to search these properties.
“As a result, all three men have now been put before the courts and brought to justice for their actions.
“The public are often our eyes and ears and it’s vital they continue to report information and concerns to us.”