St Albans gang members jailed for running cannabis factory network

A stock image of cannabis plants similar to those grown by the OCG.

A stock image of cannabis plants similar to those grown by the OCG. - Credit: Herts Police

Two St Albans members of an Organised Crime Group who ran three cannabis factories elsewhere in the country have been jailed for more than 13 years between them.

The Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU) launched an investigation into the OCG after ringleader Lulzim Koka, 29, of Dumfries Street, Luton, was arrested in 2019 trying to leave the country in possession of Class A drugs.

In early 2020, two cannabis factories in Smethwick, West Midlands, and one in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Staffordshire, were identified and dismantled as part of the investigation.

It’s estimated that had the three cannabis factories not been closed, they had the potential to have grown up to £500,000 worth of cannabis a year.

Investigations by specialist officers continued, and in March 2020 a warrant was carried out an address in Colin Road, Luton. It’s believed that the group were in the process of converting the property into a cannabis factory.

A car parked outside the property, which belonged to Koka, was searched and a viable handgun, along with 97 rounds of live ammunition, were found.

Six members of the organised crime group were arrested in total by ERSOU in connection with operation.

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Five of them were sentenced at a hearing at Wolverhampton Crown Court to a total of more than 32 years in prison.

Head of the OCG Koka was sentenced to 15 years in prison after being found guilty of possession of a prohibited weapon and ammunition, and possession with intent to supply Class A drugs. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to produce cannabis.

Blerin Bajcinca, 32, of Abbots Park, St Albans, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to produce cannabis, and was found guilty of possession of a prohibited weapon and ammunition. He was also convicted of possession of false ID documents with intent to deceive. He was sentenced to a total of nine years and 10 months in prison.

The other members of the group charged in relation to the operation were:

Sertzio Tsekrezi, 25, also of Abbots Park, St Albans, jailed for three years and four months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to produce cannabis;

Eddison Koceku, 29, of Castle Street, Smethwick, jailed for two years and three months after being found guilty of conspiracy to produce cannabis;

Edmir Tafa, 25, of Halfords Lane, Smethwick, jailed for two years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to produce cannabis;

Elvis Lushi, 33, of London Road, Newcastle-Under-Lyme, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to produce cannabis, and is to be sentenced at a later date.

Det Insp Dave Skarratts, from ERSOU, said: “This was a highly organised operation that saw cannabis being produced on a mass scale.

“They were clearly prepared to resort to significant violence if needed to protect their drugs empire, shown by the dangerous handgun recovered from Koka’s car, along with a large quantity of live ammunition.

“Koka’s crimes were compounded further when he attempted to evade the consequences of his actions by fleeing the country – but our efforts have ensured he will only be getting a one way ticket to prison.

“Drugs are very much the driving factor behind a lot of the violence and exploitation within our local communities, and underpin a wide range of criminality.

“Thanks to the hard work of our officers, along with support from our colleagues in other police forces and overseas, we have shown that you cannot outrun justice and these dangerous individuals will now be locked away where they can cause no further harm.”