By using this website, you agree to our use of cookies to enhance your experience.


Letting agents ran £2m drugs factory in rented properties

A letting agent in South London has been found to be the front for a cannabis growing operation, with drugs grown in properties managed by the agent.

Two men who ran Home To Home in Forest Hill have been jailed for a total of eight years at Woolwich Crown Court. 

Aidan Lynch, 51, of Devonshire Road SE23, was sentenced to five years in prison on one count of conspiracy to produce cannabis and six counts of permitting a premises to be used as a cannabis factory. 


Jason Smart, 47, of Gladiator Road SE23, was sentenced on the same day to three years in prison on one count conspiracy to produce cannabis and four counts of permitting a premises to be used as a cannabis factory. 

Both men were found guilty of the offences on 9 February following a three-week trial at Woolwich Crown Court, but they were only sentenced last week. 

An accomplice, Patrick McArdle, 37, of no fixed abode, was jailed for five years and six months after he was found guilty alongside Lynch and Smart of conspiracy to produce cannabis and for the production of cannabis in relation to another unconnected incident in Essex. 

It was on 14 February 2013 when officers from Lewisham's Proactive Unit executed a drugs warrant at a basement premises below shops on Crystal Palace Parade, SE19.

The address had previously been used as a bar but upon entry officers found that it was being used as a cannabis factory. The factory consisted of four low, interlinked tunnels each housing approximately 125 cannabis plants which were lit with a sophisticated timed lighting system. The cannabis plants were estimated to have a street value of £497,000.

The premises was also found to be abstracting electricity with a complex heating, lighting and ventilation system installed, bypassing the electricity meter at the address and all controlled via a commercial grade fuse box. 

Lynch and Smart later arrived at the property whilst officers were still there. They claimed to be letting agents for the property and claimed the tenant was an unidentified man they met in a pub who had paid £300 in cash. 

Due to the explanation the pair provided they were arrested for conspiracy to supply cannabis.

Following the arrests a search was carried out at the offices of Home to Home estate agents along with a search of the homes of Lynch and Smart.

The men failed to produce a tenancy agreement for the Crystal Palace Parade address. About £60,000 was found at Lynch’s home address. Lynch later tried to fool police with a fake tenancy agreement for the premises.

A thorough investigation was carried out into all properties owned and managed by Home to Home estate agents in September 2013 which led to another cannabis factory being discovered at a property on Dartmouth Road, SE26 in September 2013. Another tenancy agreement was found in McArdle's bag, produced by to Home to Home estate agents dated August 2013.

A forensic analysis of the plants found at Dartmouth Road SE26, showed that they would have been ready for harvest six weeks after their discovery by officers and the typical growth cycle for a cannabis factory, grown indoors under similar conditions would be three or four months. Therefore it was estimated that the cannabis factory would have been in progress for two or three months, at least one month prior to the date of the fake tenancy agreement.

During the course of the investigation it was discovered that there were at least seven properties that had been managed by Lynch at Home to Home letting agents that had been used as cannabis factories, which together had the potential to produce an annual revenue of more than £2 million. 

Lynch and Smart were charged on 27 August 2014 and McArdle was charged on 3 September 2014.

Detective Constable Kirsty Marchi, the investigating officer from Lewisham, said: "This was a very long and complex investigation. Lynch and Smart ran a very sophisticated operation and they thought they would get away with it, but the execution of the drugs warrant at the address at Crystal Palace Parade brought their operation crashing down. 

"They claimed that they had no knowledge their premises were being used as cannabis factories and it was simply unfortunate. Smart roped in McArdle who he knew was a criminal and could produce the cannabis whilst Lynch would allow those properties to be let out knowing that they would be used as cannabis factories.

"I am pleased we have put a stop to their criminal enterprise; the owners of the properties who placed their trust in Lynch had no knowledge that he would use their premises in order to produce drugs."

Want to comment on this story? If so...if any post is considered to victimise, harass, degrade or intimidate an individual or group of individuals on any basis, then the post may be deleted and the individual immediately banned from posting in future.


Please login to comment

MovePal MovePal MovePal
sign up