Letting agents were amongst those duped by a Merseyside builder who rented 33 homes and then sub-let them to allow the creation of what has been described in court as a £7m pound network of cannabis farms.
The Liverpool Echo news website says Robert Zielinski, 52, had keys to all 33 homes to let, and coordinated from his building business.
Liverpool Crown Court has heard that Zielinski was ostensibly sub-letting the units to members of the Polish community.
“The lettings agents were initially very happy to deal with the defendant as he rented a large number of properties from them and was also in a position to do repair work to the properties as he was a builder. It was only later that a startling pattern began to emerge” the court was told by prosecuting counsel Kevin Slack.
“You would agree to renovate premises, sometimes for a fee or often in return for the first few months’ rent” he continued.
“You pretended to sub-let the properties in some cases while in fact using them to grow cannabis. Sometimes you did put tenants in for a short time to give verisimilitude to the concept your business was legitimate.
“When landlords or agents asked about tenants or asked for proof of identification in many cases you fobbed them off with lies. You even changed locks on properties to keep landlords and agents away from the cannabis. You had the trust of the property owners or agents and you abused it.”
Zielinski has now been jailed for eight years. You can read the full local press story here.