Crop house accused – one bailed, one remanded

A woman has been granted bail for family reasons after being charged with growing and trafficking a commercial quantity of cannabis following a raid at a Vindon Street, Morwell property at the weekend.

Thi Phan, 45, of Springvale faced the Latrobe Valley Magistrates’ Court on Monday for a bail application after she was accused of allegedly cultivating cannabis, trafficking a drug of dependence, stealing electricity and dealing with the proceeds of crime.

The court heard the mother of three was the primary carer for her ill 76-year-old mother and 14-year-old son.

Ms Phan’s lawyer, George Balot, told the court the accused’s eldest son, David Phan, would offer a surety of $10,000 to secure his mother’s bail.

After evidence was given on Monday, the case was adjourned when Magistrate Simon Garnett said he required time to deliberate over the application.

The matter returned to court on Tuesday when Latrobe Crime Investigation Unit Detective Senior Constable Mick McNamara told the court a second raid carried out at Comans Street, Morwell overnight had uncovered a second “crop house”.

Senior Detective McNamara said police believed the second crop house was connected to Ms Phan and her co-accused Than Hoang, 45, of Morwell.

Later on Tuesday, Ms Phan’s mother offered an increased surety of $100,000 to secure her daughter’s bail.

In handing down his decision to grant Ms Phan bail, Magistrate Garnet said he had taken into account the accused’s responsibilities with her 14-year-old son and mother, along with her stable accommodation in Springvale and lack of prior convictions.

“I have also taken into account [that Ms Phan is prepared to] give evidence against the co-accused,” Magistrate Garnet said.

Ms Phan’s bail conditions require her to report to Springvale Police Station three days a week, surrender her passport and not leave Victoria or contact any witnesses in relation to the case.

She is also restricted from entering the Latrobe Valley without prior permission from police or for court purposes, while the court agreed to accept the $100,000 surety.

Mr Hoang, who police said was Ms Phan’s partner, was remanded in custody on Monday morning after he was charged with the same offences.

Senior Detective McNamara told the court the alleged discovery of cannabis at Vindon Street occurred after police went to the property on Friday

for a welfare check after tracing an emergency call for medical assistance to the address.

He said police knocked on the front door but it appeared no one was home.

“Police could hear loud humming noises coming from garage … [they] were able to lift the garage door up about one metre and could see a fake wall,” Senior Detective McNamara told the court.

He said police decided to force entry to the property and found a “sophisticated hydroponic setup” spread across several rooms.

The court heard 147 cannabis plants ranging in maturity were found throughout the house and adjoining garage.

Senior Detective McNamara told the court according to Ms Phan, David Phan owned the Vindon Street property but had leased it to Mr Hoang months earlier after he approached the son.

The accused told police during an interview Mr Hoang was paid $5000 a month to feed the cannabis crop.

“My concern is that the family is involved in this syndicate [and] the accused will continue to offend if she’s released,” Senior Detective McNamara said.

The hearing was adjourned before resuming later on Tuesday morning, when police revealed that a search of the Comans Street property had uncovered an additional 49 cannabis plants of various sizes.

Hydroponic equipment including transformers, pumps and extension leads plus an electrical bypass were also located in the house.

Senior Detective McNamara said documents seized from both addresses, including a residential tenancy agreement, revealed the accused and co-accused’s details.

Both matters return to court in February for a committal mention.