$100 fines, no jail for 16,000 pot plant grow-op kingpins

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Gavel

Daniel R. Pearce, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:18 AM ET

KITCHENER, Ont. -- The two kingpins in a massive indoor grow-op that produced more than 16,000 pot plants have been punished with $100 fines and a nightly curfew -- but no jail time.

Superior Court Justice Stephen Glithero gave the Toronto-area men a form of house arrest for their part in an operation that was so big dump trucks had to be used to haul the pot away when the bust went down in June 2011.

Police found a well-organized, sophisticated operation north of Waterford, Ont., with an automatic watering system and a drying room. Initially, it was dubbed one of the biggest indoor grow-ops in Ontario history.

The pot seized has been valued at $5-$8 million.

Eight men were arrested in the raid, which was part of a provincewide crackdown by the OPP's Asian organized crime unit, nicknamed Chun Tsao, Chinese for springweed. It included busts in Pickering, Peterborough, Wainflee, and Pelham, although Waterford was by far the largest.

All eight have pleaded guilty and been sentenced. But, with the exception of some pre-trial custody, none of them have been put behind bars.

The two considered to be at the top of the pyramid -- Jing Ming Chen, 39, of Markham, Ont., and Kien Sheng Kwok, 58, of Toronto -- were handed their sentences in a Kitchener court Wednesday.

They will be allowed to go to their jobs, must keep the peace, be of good behaviour and stay in their homes between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Glithero said he had to give credit to Chen not only for serving 11.5 months in pre-trial custody, but also for what happened to him while in a Hamilton jail -- an attack by another inmate that left him with a seriously broken leg.

Chen, who works in the kitchen at a Burlington, Ont., steakhouse, required surgery and still has trouble standing for long periods of time.

Glithero also said the law required him to consider the consequences for Chen, who has a wife and two young children, if he gave him a sentence of six months or longer -- automatic deportation back to China.

Kwok, a bricklayer who spent a week in jail before being released on bailed, put up $20,000 to buy the former vegetable growing operation and let his name stand on the mortgage in return for a share of the profits.

Kwok had a "lesser role" in the grow-op than Chen, said Glithero, and also "lost the most financially." After the bust, he was held responsible for the rest of the mortgage and had his wages garnisheed. He never did collect any returns from the grow-op.

Both men also were given credit for the time they spent on bail under "restrictive" conditions and for pleading guilty, which Glithero said saved a lengthy and complicated trial.

Chen's house arrest will last one year less two days while Kwok's is for two years less a day.

The pair were also ordered to pay what's called a victim surcharge of $100.

Earlier this month, two men who were considered to be gardeners were sentenced to time served.

In 2012, three of the "investors" in the operation were given house arrest in return for agreeing to give evidence against Chen and Kwok.

Charges against an eighth man were dropped after the Crown said a conviction was unlikely.


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