A MAN has been ordered to pay back nearly a quarter of a million pounds of criminal profits from drug dealing following a Sussex Police investigation.
John Weaver, 50, appeared at Hove Crown Court last Friday (April 27) and was served with a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA).
The order requires him to pay back £225,000 of criminal profits into public funds.
Just after midnight on November 30 2009, a fire was reported in a shed in the rear garden of the house he then owned in Solomon’s Lane, Mountfield.
Investigators found that this was one of three sheds where cannabis was being produced.
The fire in the largest of the sheds was caused by faulty electrical wiring.
That shed was completely destroyed, but two further sheds remained intact.
Officers found that both contained ‘hydroponics’ set ups for cannabis production, with 250 cannabis plants in various stages of growth.
However the shed that had been destroyed by the fire was the largest.
Evidence was found there that suggested it had also been used to grow cannabis.
In the loft of the main house another small hydroponic set up was found.
Although no plants were found, some cannabis was found on the floor.
The search of the premises took several days and police dog Ellie was used to help search the garden.
She started digging beside one of the remaining sheds and found a bag which contained two mobile phones and a set of keys.
Also found in the garden were a number of root balls which were subsequently identified as being the remains of cannabis plants.
On the rear lawn close to the patio area a polythene bag was located which contained an amount of herbal cannabis.
Weaver was stopped by a Kent Police officer whilst driving nearby on the night of the fire and was arrested on suspicion being involved in the fire.
He was charged with production of cannabis, dishonestly causing to be wasted or diverted a quantity of electricity of a value unknown, and possession of cannabis, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment at Lewes Crown Court in August 2010.
The subsequent police financial investigation found that Weaver have profited from his drug dealing by £1,144,000, but the £225,000 he was ordered to repay represents his currently available assets.
If he fails to comply with the repayment order he will be sent back to prison for a further two-and-a-half years and will still be required to pay the order.
However, as his assets are restrained he will be forced to sell his home, currently in Dorset, to help meet the order.
Detective Sergeant Peter Billin said: “This was a thorough investigation following information first reported to us by East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, thus showing the benefits of inter-agency liaison, and it was successfully pursued by the investigating officer Detective Constable Carol Shoesmith, working with the Crown Prosecution Service.
“There then followed an extensive investigation into the defendant’s financial situation by two of our expert financial investigators, the result of which is that Weaver will be stripped of his assets, including his home, and a very substantial amount of money will be available to the communities of Sussex for worthwhile projects and to support in the further fight against crime.”
Weaver sold the property in Mountfield two years ago.
The current occupiers have no connection with the case or Weaver.