Three men have been convicted for their role in a £280,000 cannabis farm in the town centre.
The ‘professional operation’ was discovered at two flats above a former Indian restaurant on Park Green, Macclesfield.
A total of 287 plants and growing equipment were found by police – but there was ‘space for up to 100 more’ and evidence of a harvest, a court heard.
Fingerprints and DNA led police to three men: Dean Gareth Peppard, 35, Peter Swain, 39, and Gary Southgate, 39.
All three men initially denied the production of cannabis but Peppard and Swain admitted the offence on the day of the trial. Southgate was found guilty by jury at Chester Crown Court.
Recorder Steve Riordan QC said he could only sentence the trio on the evidence but had ‘great suspicion [they] were involved more heavily’ in the operation.
Southgate, of Corston Walk, Manchester, was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for two years.
Dean Gareth Peppard, of Woodland View, Hyde, was sentenced to 21 months in prison, suspended for two years.
Peter Swain, of Butte Farm, Glossop, was sentenced to 18 months in prison, suspended for two years.
All three men were ordered to do 250 hours unpaid work and given three-month curfews.
John Oates, prosecuting, said the cannabis farm was found on March 31, 2015, by a locksmith sent by the owner after the tenant stopped paying his rent.
In the first flat there were three ‘zones’ with 226 plants with a potential street value of £271,000.
The second flat had four zones containing 61 ‘unhealthy’ plants valued at up to £7,200.
The court heard Peppard’s van was traced coming into Macclesfield 14 times between October 2014 and March 2015, and there were mobile phone records.
Sarah Griffin, defending Peppard, a roofer, said he was paid £400 for his ‘minimal role’ connected with flat two and his behaviour was ‘out of character’.
Swain was captured in B&Q buying clippers in March 2015 and the packaging traced to the flats.
Gareth Roberts, defending Swain, a boxing coach, said he was paid £60 to move some equipment and was ‘ashamed and embarrassed’ by his actions.
Oliver Jarvis, defending Southgate, said he played a lesser role connected to flat one.