Prison sentence handed down for Ballybofey cannabis factory

A man who had served a sentence for manslaughter in Lithuania set up a cannabis factory in Donegal just months after arriving in Ireland, a court has heard.

A man who had served a sentence for manslaughter in Lithuania set up a cannabis factory in Donegal just months after arriving in Ireland, a court has heard.

Andrious Gruodis (32), was jailed for six years after he pleaded guilty at Letterkenny Circuit Court of possession of more than €23,000 of cannabis and €400 of BZP tablets at a house at Beechwood Avenue in Ballybofey on January 6th last.

The court heard gardaí investigated the house after receiving information about suspicious activity at the address.

Detective Sgt. Niall Boyle said that during a visit to the house gardaí discovered the ESB supply had been by-passed and found plant pots and small balls of plastic insulation at the back door.

On leaving the house they spoke to a man walking towards the address who they discovered was the tenant of the house.

When gardaí obtained a search warrant Gruodis admitted he had the tablets and cannabis plants in the house. The 84 and a half tablets were for his own personal use, he said.

On entry to the house gardaí noticed a strong smell of cannabis. Gruodis showed them a underground garage where there were 58 cannabis plants and an extractor fan. He admitted he was the sole tenant and had rented the property for the purpose of growing cannabis which he intended to sell.

The court heard Gruodis came to Ireland on April 8th, 2010 just after being released from serving a seven-year sentence for manslaughter.

Gruodis had a sister living in Trim, Co. Meath and he had come to Ireland to get away from this past. His sister told the court she received a visit late one night from men who threatened her if her brother did not repay money he owed them. She said he believed her brother was growing the drugs to pay back the money he owed.

Defence barrister Diarmuid Connolly said Gruodis had a difficult past and had pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity.

Judge John O’Hagan said Gruodis had come to Ireland with very serious previous convictions and set himself up to produce cannabis. He said the factory was a meticulous, well-planned, intentional and deliberate operation. He also congratulated the drug squad on the operation saying they worked long and often fruitless hours with limited resources.

The judge sentenced Gruodis to two six-year jail terms to be served concurrently.