A Red Deer man received the first conditional sentence on Wednesday for five people convicted in eight separate residential busts of marijuana grow operations during the period of a year ending in the fall of 2007.
Jay Hein Tang, 42, received a two-year-less-a-day conditional sentence to be served in the community after he was convicted of possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking, producing marijuana and stealing electricity following a two-day Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench trial.
Justice June Ross of Edmonton sentenced Tang to 15 months of house arrest followed by nine months of a curfew during a sentence hearing.
In all the other convictions, the culprits were sentenced to jail terms of between two years and 28 months.
They had all been sentenced by Central Alberta judges after pleading guilty.
Tang’s case was the only one to go to trial.
Tang was busted by RCMP in November 2007. Police found 526 marijuana plants in various stages of growth at a residence on Selkirk Boulevard in Sunnybrook.
Federal Crown prosecutor Dave Inglis argued for a jail term of between two and two and a half years.
A police expert testified the operation was worth between $750,000 to $1 million yearly if three crops were harvested.
The operation was conducted in the basement and was powered by electricity that Tang had diverted from City of Red Deer lines.
Ross said the operation was a sophisticated, three-stage growth affair with much equipment and powered by stolen electricity.
However, she said it appeared Tang, who owned the house, appeared to be “not too far from being a crop sitter.”
She said the Alberta Court of Appeal has said crop sitters should be considered to have a lesser degree of responsibility.
In his testimony, Tang said he rented the house to two men and he wasn’t involved.
But RCMP forensics found Tang’s thumbprint on a light socket hanging above the plants.
Ross said Tang didn’t have a record and didn’t pose a community threat because he lives in Red Deer with his wife and three sons and has worked for 10 years as a cook.
Tang must also perform 100 hours of community service, pay a $300 surcharge and is banned from owning or possessing firearms for 10 years.