Sheffield Crown Court heard on April 5 how eleven gang members were charged with offences including conspiring to produce cannabis, conspiring to acquire and convert criminal property, being the occupiers of premises used for cannabis production and possessing criminal property.
David Gordon, prosecuting, said plumber Robert Coward, aged 39, of Telson Close, Swinton, Rotherham, was at the centre of this operation and he had recruited others into a commercial enterprise involving cannabis farms and the laundering of proceeds.
Mr Gordon said: “At the heart of of the case is Robert Coward. He enlisted the other defendants in an enterprise, the main aim of which was to grow cannabis on a commercial scale with a number of farms.”
Police found evidence of “high-living” at Robert Coward’s home and cash with traces of cannabis and two mobile phones with evidence of calls and texts referring to drug production with some of the co-accused, according to Mr Gordon.
Robert Coward and his wife’s accounts revealed £227,969 worth of unexplained credit, according to Mr Gordon, and Robert Coward had been involved in installing hydroponic systems after his DNA was found at some of the addresses that had been used to grow cannabis plants.
Mr Gordon said: “Regular payments were paid to these ‘farmers’ by Robert Coward for the use of their homes and other premises as cannabis farms.”
Robert Coward pleaded guilty to conspiring to produce cannabis between February, 2010, to February, 2018, and to conspiring to acquire and convert criminal property between April, 2010, and April, 2016.
His parents Michael Coward, aged 68, and Lynn Coward, aged 66, of Toll Bar Road, Swinton, Rotherham, both admitted conspiring to acquire and convert criminal property between April, 2010, and April, 2016, and to being the occupiers of a property, namely Lynn’s Chippy, on Main Street, where they allowed the production of cannabis in a flat.
Police found evidence of “high-living” concerning Michael and Lynn Coward and recovered £24,060 in a bag with traces of cannabis and there were unexplained cash deposits concerning the couple totaling £54,799, according to Mr Gordon.
Mr Gordon said above Lynn Coward’s shop, Lynn’s Chippy, a flat was found by police with remnants of a cannabis grow to which Michael and Lynn Coward’s other son Thomas Coward accepted responsibility.
Thomas Coward, aged 37, of St Margaret’s Drive, Swinton, Rotherham, pleaded guilty to conspiring to produce cannabis between February, 2010, and February, 2018, after growing equipment was also found in a vehicle and to possessing criminal property after he was found with an undeclared income of £43,929.
Others who pleaded guilty to conspiring to produce cannabis included: Thomas Haigh, aged 37, of Newsam Road, Kilnhurst, Rotherham; Gareth Lee, aged 30, of Middle Avenue, Rawmarsh, Rotherham; Jamie Lee, aged 32, of Goodwin Avenue, Rawmarsh; Jake Bull, aged 31, of South Street, Rawmarsh; and Jody Sheppard, aged 40, of Providence Street, Greasborough, Rotherham.
Adam Hudson, aged 27, of Hallgate, Mexborough, and Lucy Crichton, aged 37, of Zamor Crescent, Thurcroft, Rotherham, were both found guilty of conspiring to produce cannabis after a trial.
The on-going hearing has been scheduled to last three days for representations before the defendants are sentenced.