TWO men involved in cultivating cannabis with a potential value of €326,600 at a rented house in Tulla earlier this year have received jail sentences and could end up serving their time in a Polish prison.
Rafal Ucinek (26) and Emil Sumczynski (24), both with an address at Miltown, Tulla, appeared before a sitting of Limerick Circuit Court on Friday last, where they were each sentenced on a charge of cultivating cannabis on January 13 last.
Judge Carroll Moran imposed a four-year prison sentence on Ucinek and a two-year jail term on Sumczynski, which he ordered to be backdated to January 13 last, when they were first taken into custody.
Judge Moran said the charge of cultivation carried a maximum sentence of 14 years, which “is a very considerable sentence”.
Recalling the facts in the case, Judge Moran said, “As a result of confidential information, the gardaí obtained a warrant to search a house near Tulla. At 10.10pm on January 13, 2014, they went to this house. It was a dormer bungalow on a remote rural road. As they approached, the police saw lights on in the house but, when they knocked on the door, the lights were switched off and, as there was no answer, they forced open the door.
“The two accused men were found in the house. Upstairs in the dormer or attic of the house were two large rooms. Evidence of the cultivation of cannabis plants was found in these rooms and both had been adapted for the cultivation and this included ventilation, lighting and other equipment. It appears to have been a fairly sophisticated operation,” he said.
He explained that 124 infant cannabis plants were discovered by the gardaí. These plants were immature and in the early stages of development. In addition to this, over 11kg of herbal cannabis, as well as certain paraphernalia of illegal drug dealing, including weighing scales, bags for deals and flower pots, were discovered.
Judge Moran also recalled that a total of €3,715, the property of Ucinek, was seized on the premises. The money was payment for the cultivation of an earlier crop of cannabis.
“Ucinek said he worked for a man he called ‘uncle’ and he was paid between €2,000 and €4,000 remuneration for a crop. The police tried to find out the identity of ‘uncle’ but without success. The landlord said he had rented the house to a Polish man called Martin. The police were unable to find him and it appears all details he gave to the landlord were false,” Judge Moran continued.
He said that Ucinek had told gardaí he had been in the house for a year and a half and the house appeared to have been used for cultivation “for some time”.
Judge Moran said it had been accepted by the prosecution that the accused men had “been exploited”.
“Their remunerations were small and they were penalised for any failure in the crop by having money deducted. I’m told this is particularly exploitative, as even the greenest of fingers or the best of gardeners will have failures from time to time.
“In addition, they were living in poor conditions. The house was cold and damp and neither had a social life,” Judge Moran said.
Speaking of Sumczynski, he said the gardaí were of the view that he had “played a lesser role, and was the less culpable of the two men”.
Ahead of sentencing, Judge Moran said in the accused men’s favour was their plea of guilty and the fact they had co-operated with the gardaí. However, he noted that the men were “caught red-handed, so to speak”.
He said he accepted they were at the lowest ring of the operation and were “just the gardeners, whose sole job was to harvest the plants”. He added that the men were exploited by someone else. “Neither has any proper knowledge of English, which would be an additional burden, if they were in prison in Ireland. However, they could apply to have their sentences served in Poland, which would alleviate this point,” he said.
He said the aggravating factors in the case were that the plants and drugs had a potential value of more than €326,600.
“These two men, while they were working for a ‘Mr Big’, if you like, and were being exploited, were still in this illegal business for their own profit. This is a very serious case, particularly having regard to the large amount of drugs found and the length of time this had been going on. If they had pleaded not guilty and found the case and were convicted, I would have imposed a sentence of at least six years,” Judge Moran said.
He imposed a four-year prison sentence on Ucinek and backdated it to January 13 last. He said Sumczynski was the “lesser player” and imposed a two-year prison sentence on him, also backdated to January 13.
He then granted orders to forfeit the cash seized from the house to the State and also for the destruction of the drugs and plants.