A CANNABIS grower is facing a long jail sentence after being found guilty of laundering the huge profits from his enterprise.

Josef MacNamara tried to hide his illegal source of wealth by claiming to be an airline pilot when he conned a bank into giving him a £415,000 mortgage to buy a house in Crediton.

He was able to make his monthly payments on the house because he was making somewhere between £380,000 and £1.4 million a year out of growing cannabis in a compound at Longridge, Sandford.

MacNamara claimed to be growing medicinal cannabis to turn into oil to treat back pain but the 144 plant production line was far bigger than he could possibly have needed.

He produced no medical evidence to show any back injury and produced no evidence to show that he was making his money by trading in unregistered cars, vans and bikes. He has never paid any tax or business rates.

A jury at Exeter Crown Court found him guilty of money laundering despite knowing nothing about the £415,000 mortgage fraud which he admitted before the start of the case.

He had also admitted production of cannabis but had entered a basis of plea which claimed it was not a commercial operation. He claimed that £60,000 cash had been buried by his late father and that he also received an inheritance from his grandmother through an allowance paid by his mother.

MacNamara, aged 50, of New Buildings, Sandford, and formerly of Jocelyn Mead, Crediton, denied but was found guilty of converting criminal property.

Judge David Evans adjourned his sentence until February 9 and ordered a probation pre-sentence report.

He told the jury: “You may be interested to know that in 2018 he was loaned £415,000 by the TSB to buy his house and told them he was an airline pilot earning about £100,000 a year and provided documents about his job.

“The truth only came out later when the police went to Longridge and started investigating his finances.”

During the trial the jury heard how police raided the compound at Longridge days after he harvested a crop of 72 plants and police found 72 healthy seedlings ready to take their place under specially fitted lights in a compound at Sandford.

The harvested crop weighed just under 11 kilograms and had been divided into 15 ounce and 20 ounce packages which had a wholesale value of £43,600 and street value of £109,840.

The system had been in place for at least three years and was capable of producing eight to 13 crops a year of the same size, with a maximum potential annual value of £1.427,920 at street prices.

A police drugs expert testified that the way in which the crop had been bagged up meant it was almost certainly destined for the wholesale market, meaning that its annual yield may have been worth just £384,000.

MacNamara told Exeter Crown Court that he was growing it all for his own use and to share with four other unnamed men and it was destined to be turned into CBD oil which he used to treat back pain.

He said that £158,582 that passed through his bank account between 2013 and his arrest in July 2020 came from unregistered dealing in cars, trucks and motorcycles and from inheritances.

He told the jury that his father had been a successful car dealer and gambler before his death in 2013 and had buried £60,000 cash in drain pipes at the land at Longridge, Sandford, passing the secret to his son on his deathbed.

MacNamara said he had dug up the money and drip fed it into his bank account so as not to arouse suspicion. He said he also received money from his late grandmother through his mother, who separated from her father and remarried.

He said his mother’s husband is Lord O’Hagan, an aristocrat from North Devon who is a former Conservative Member of the European Parliament.

MacNamara said he never paid any tax on his vehicle sales or kept any form of financial records, and that he repaired and sold unregistered bikes and cars at race meetings.

Mr Ian Graham, prosecuting, said police raided his home in Crediton and compound at Longridge, Sandford, on July 9, 2020 and found a sophisticated cannabis growing operation and a large amount of harvested buds, also known as female flowering heads.

There were 72 empty pots which had been used for the last grow and 72 seedlings in a caravan on the site. The equipment included lights, fans, silver sheeting on the walls but looked as if it had been in place for several years.

Mr Graham said the operation had been operating since about 2014 and was run on a commercial scale and that the large amounts of cash which were paid into his bank account must have come from the sale of cannabis.

Officers seized three cars, a van and a trials bike with a total value of £115,000. These were an Audi RS6, a Land Rover Discovery, a Range Rover sport and a Ford Transit.

The electricity supply at Sandford had been by-passed and MacNamara refused to tell police the PIN number to unlock his mobile telephone. Drugs amounting to just under 11 kilograms were found, mainly in 25 bags.

No equipment was found which could be used to make cannabis oil nor was there any evidence of the large amounts of ethanol which is needed for the process.

MacNamara gave evidence that he suffered a back injury while serving in the Army which he aggravated while motor racing and for which he found cannabis oil to be the only effective treatment.

He said he and four friends, who he refused to name, had set up the cannabis grow in 2017 or 2018 with the intention of making cannabis oil. He gave up his own attempts after a few failures and passed on the crop to others, who made the oil and gave him a supply.

He said he made no money from selling cannabis and all the credits into his account came from dealing in cars, vans or bikes or from allowances paid by his mother.

He told the court that his father had also bought and sold vehicles and had been a highly successful gambler, making money on poker, dogs and horses.

He said: “His money was buried in the garden, he did not believe in banks. It was all buried in one place. He died in 2013. I dug it up but did not put it all in the bank at once because I thought it would look suspicious, so I drip fed it into my account.”