A DULWICH Hill man has been arrested and 14 hydro houses dismantled as part of an investigation into large-scale cannabis cultivation in Sydney.
The 26-year-old man was arrested along with a 24-year-old Bankstown man after detectives uncovered a network operating up to 14 'grow houses' in rental properties across Sydney.
Following inquiries, Strike Force Kilkee investigators issued 16 search warrants from 6am on Tuesday. Police found elaborate hydroponic set-ups in 14 homes, which were examined by specialist forensic officers. In total, investigators seized 2,260 cannabis plants, with an estimated potential street value of more than $11.3 million, and cash. After dismantling the set-ups, investigators also seized hydroponic, electrical and lighting equipment, as well as chemicals.
The Dulwich Hill man was charged with cultivating a prohibited plant and using electricity without authority. The Bankstown man was charged with the same offences.
Drug and Firearms Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Peter McErlain, said investigations were underway to identify 'crop sitters'.
"In this investigation, it appears the group has been working somewhat like a franchise; renting homes and then bringing in a group of people to modify the premises, installing electrical bypasses and supplying the hydroponic equipment and seedlings," Det Supt McErlain said.
"As we've seen from previous investigations, the groups will often then recruit or coerce vulnerable or debt-ridden members of the community to cultivate the plants."
Further arrests are expected.