A commercial premises in the middle of Mullingar was set up as a massive cannabis grow house, ready for at least 760 cannabis plants worth €304,000.
Mullingar Circuit Court has heard how an entirely new internal structure, including rooms lined with tinfoil, were built into the three floors of the 13,000 square foot premises on Pearse Street.
Garda David Mead said a search of the premises in April 2011 revealed extensive electrical wiring, ventilation, and irrigation system were installed and mains electricity was intercepted.
Local gardaí and members of the Garda National Drug Unit found “vast amounts” of compost and growth chemicals at the rear of the premises.
They also found fans, lights, wood, plasterboard, and CCTV footage which linked Chang Hui Wang, of Foxborough Hall, Lucan to hardware stores where he bought the materials.
It cost €8,000 to restore electrics at the property, and a further €9,500 to remove venting, plumbing, a new shower, kitchen, living area, and walls.
Chang was also caught aiding and abetting cannabis cultivation at three other premises in Dublin, offences he is serving a six-year sentence for.
Investigating gardaí found lease documents for the Mullingar premises in the name of a Daniel Yeng, an alias for Chang, who was also facilitating a grow-house in Longford.
Mark Lynam LLB said his client, a married father of three, had been living in Lucan and working as a chef in north Kildare until he lost his job in 2009.
He did construction work and provided equipment and food for the ‘gardeners’ employed to grow the cannabis.
He was receiving €200 for each grow-house trip he made, Mr Lynam said, adding that he had been led astray at a time when a lot of people lost their jobs and found themselves in financial despair.
Chang, who is likely to face deportation and lose his house, is not a hardened criminal, he said.
In a letter Chang said he was ashamed and embarrassed by what he had done and asked for the judge’s sympathy for his three Irish children.
Mr Lynam said Cheng works with the Samaritans in Mountjoy prison and a nun attending the prison described him as a good person.
Judge Hunt said it was a very unfortunate and tragic case, not so much for Chang, who deserves his sentence, but the consequences for his young children are appalling.
He remanded the case to the Crimianl Court of Justice in Dublin on July 31 for sentencing for the two charges of aiding and abetting cannabis production, and criminal damage.