Two Vietnamese nationals described in court as little more than labourers or crop-sitters for a major cannabis growing operation in the Upper Hunter have been handed jail terms.
Judge Roy Ellis sentenced Quang Huy Le, 29, and Viet Cuong Do, 24, in Newcastle District Court on Friday afternoon.
They each received a three-year jail sentence and an 18-month non-parole period, backdated for time already spent in custody.
While Mr Le was able to walk free after the penalties were handed down, Mr Do was taken by Corrective Services NSW officers straight to the Newcastle courthouse cells to serve the 10-month balance of his non-parole period.
The Cabramatta men were charged in August 2020 when detectives from the State Crime Command's Drug and Firearms Squad swooped on a property at Gungal, about 60km from Muswellbrook, as part of an operation under Strike Force Harthouse.
At the property, police found 2628 cannabis plants with an estimated street value of $7.8 million, in 12 large scale grow houses.
Mr Le and Mr Do were each charged with taking part in large commercial cannabis cultivation, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail.
Judge Ellis said the pair were not involved in setting up the operation, nor did they stand to profit from the amount of drugs sold - they had simply been recruited as "paid muscle" to perform labouring duties at the property.
He said their role would have been the same no matter how many cannabis plants were at the property, but because there were so many they had been charged with a count that carried a long maximum jail sentence - describing their involvement as the "least serious role any individual can have".
"It's clear it had been set up well and truly before the arrival of Mr Do and Mr Le," Judge Ellis said.
"They had nothing to do with setting up plants. For a few weeks they were employed simply as labourers."
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