A Harrogate property landlady and six members of an organised crime gang from London have been jailed for a total of 28 years and 11 months after cannabis farms were found in three Harrogate rental properties.
The sentences follow a complex investigation after police in Harrogate were called to a disturbance in Alexandra Road on 26 September when vehicles left a trail of cannabis debris in the street.
Two of the vehicles involved, including one loaded with cannabis, were tracked heading south and was intercepted by Hertfordshire Police. A search of the vehicle resulted in officers seizing around £300,000 worth of cannabis.
At the same time, police officers in Harrogate searched a house in Alexandra Road that turned out to be owned by Yoko Banks, a 73-year-old Harrogate property landlady. Inside they found an established cannabis grow along with equipment including an electrical wiring and security system.
A search of further properties owned by Banks revealed two more cannabis farms in Woodlands Road and Somerset Road . In total police seized cannabis with a street value of up to £240,000 from the three properties.
The houses had been rented out to a third party who then sub-let them to the organised crime gang, with Banks expecting to make thousands of pounds from the arrangement.
All five were sentenced at Leeds Crown Court on Friday 13 August on Monday 16 August 2021 and all were Albanian nationals other than Banks and Kokaj.
All six pleaded guilty to being concerned in the production of cannabis and Indrit Brahaj, Kokaj, Sellaj, and Erblin Elezaj also pleaded guilty to possessing cannabis with intent to supply.
Yoko Banks, 73, of Scargill Road pleaded guilty to three counts of being concerned in the production of cannabis and was jailed on 13 August for three years and six months.
Speaking after sentencing, Detective Constable Maria Furness of Harrogate CID, said:
The sentences passed mark the end of a complex investigation which has dismantled this extremely harmful organised crime group operating across the country.
An investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act will follow with the intention of stripping them of their assets accrued through criminality. Communities across the country will share our satisfaction that these people have been removed from our neighbourhoods and their ill-gotten gains seized.
Drug supply and associated violent crime ruins the lives of whole communities. We will continue to work tirelessly to identify prosecute and dismantle organised crime groups from our streets.