Struggling boss turned to drugs

A BUSINESSMAN hit by the recession and debt turned to growing cannabis at his bathroom showroom, a court heard.

But Kevin Lever’s moneymaking scheme was discovered when police, investigating reports of a burglary at the premises, Egerton Bathrooms, in Blackburn Road, spotted a bright light coming from behind a damaged false wall in the cellar.

Yesterday, at Bolton Crown Court, Lever, whose partner is expecting their second child next month, was jailed for 20 months after pleading guilty to producing cannabis.

William Donnelly, prosecuting, said police went to the Vale House business after reports of a burglary on November 29 last year.

But when officers went into a cellar they discovered the false wall and 80 cannabis plants growing behind it in a sophisticated set up, all powered using stolen electricity.

Lever, aged 33, of Blackburn Road, was arrested and admitted helping set up the cannabis farm and caring for the plants. Carolyn Smith, defending, said Lever had run up £10,000 of debts and, due to the recession and only being able to sell one bathroom a month, the business was in difficulty.

The court heard Lever asked two business associates if they would like to buy his display bathrooms, but when they visited the showroom and saw the cellar they offered to pay him to use it as a cannabis farm instead. “He, very unwisely, took that opportunity,” said Miss Smith.

Lever told police he was offered £2,000 for each time a crop was harvested and, with the operation running for four months before it was discovered, had received £4,000.

Police put the value on each crop at between £4,000 and £6,700, although Lever told them his associates had claimed it was worth £15,000. The money he made, he claimed, was used to pay rent on the premises and reduce his debts.

“He was not living richly.

It was simply to keep afloat,” said Miss Smith.

Sentencing Lever, Recorder Paul O’Brien told him: “You are a decent, hardworking fellow who has made a massive mistake. It gives me no joy at all to send you to prison, but I am afraid that is what I’ll have to do.”

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