Freedom up in smoke for drug trafficker
A MAN'S freedom has vanished, much like his $3000-a-month drug business, after he was sentenced in Maroochydore District Court.
Christopher Ronald Barton's hydroponic cannabis growth, supply and trafficking business went up in smoke after a shed caught fire on Ilkley Rd at Eudlo in February last year.
Barton pleaded guilty yesterday to various drug charges, including trafficking, possessing and producing dangerous drugs, before being sentenced to three years' jail by Judge John Robertson.
The court was told that about 5.30am on February 23 last year, Queensland Fire and Emergency Service officers were called to a fire at a Eudlo property where a shed was ablaze.
As firefighters continued to hose down hot spots after the fire, police officers in attendance noticed a number of overhead lights, fans and electrical transformers in the shed.
Suspecting the shed may have been used as a hydroponic cannabis production area, officers executed a search of a house at the property about 7am.
The search uncovered a cache of drug-related items.
In the main bedroom, police found 187g of cannabis in a dresser drawer and $3000 cash in $50 notes stashed inside a video cassette recorder case.
A bowl with 2g of cannabis was found in the kitchen, and another bowl in a cupboard above the fridge held a further 73g of cannabis.
Analog and digital scales, a grinder, a small pipe and a home-made bong were also uncovered, along with two 500ml fertiliser bottles and a 500g tub of powdered fertiliser, all located in the house.
Barton agreed to a police interview less than five hours after the search in which he made a number of admissions to investigating officers.
The court was told Barton admitted the equipment in the shed had been used for growing cannabis, a practice he had started about six years earlier.
After hitting financial difficulties, Barton had bought more equipment in order to upscale the size of the production operation.
The Prosecution said Barton had told police he would give the weed away to friends, but would sell it to other associates he met.
Barton told police that in the past six months of the operation, production had doubled to the point where he was pumping out about a pound of cannabis a month.
He said he had been earning about $3000 a month for six to eight months before the bust, as the operation had branched out in its final 12 months.
Barton told police he had been supplying cannabis for about a year to four other associates, who would on-sell the illicit drug.
Barton pocketed from $2000 to $2500 from the arrangement.
Judge Robertson sentenced Barton to three years' jail for the trafficking charge, the balance suspended after eight months, as well as 18 months' jail for the production charge and six months' prison for possession, to be served concurrently.
Barton will remain on a 28-month suspended sentence upon his release.