A VIDEO of a baby playing with thousands of pounds in drug money formed part of a complex drugs case against a cannabis growing empire.

The ringleader of the sophisticated operation - which included a home in East Lancashire - has been jailed for more than 7 years, following a detailed investigation by police.

Jack Nguyen oversaw an £820,000 drugs ring which saw a number of north-west homes commandeered as growing hubs, such as a non-descript terraced house in Roe Greave Road, Oswaldtwistle.

Part of the cover for the operation involved cannabis gardeners taking over rented houses, posing as expectant parents, or couples with a newborn baby.

Video footage uncovered by detectives even showed of some of the conspirators letting the child play with thousands of pounds in £20 notes, earned through their ill-gotten enterprise.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Cops began to unravel Nguyen’s network after the Oswaldtwistle swoop, which took place last February.

Investigators found plants with a street value of £80,000 at Roe Greave Road, but it later emerged that the gang had registered similar properties across Lancashire and Merseyside.

The officers also recovered around £250,000 in cash as a result of further raids.

Jack and his girlfriend Thanh Thi Nguyen, along with Trang Nguyen and Hoai Nguyen, helped to establish the cannabis hubs, using false identities and bogus papers to secure leases on no fewer than 21 houses.

REVEALED: How detectives cracked North West Vietnamese drugs ring

Landlords were made to think that they were renting out the homes to new families. Deposits were also paid in cash, so the drug lords could avoid leaving a paper trail.

The Nguyens then employed a small army of ‘gardeners’ to regularly turn up and tend to their crops.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Other locations used by the gang included houses in Liverpool, Preston, Blackpool and Burscough.

Jack, 28, of Webster Avenue, Bootle, who admitted to conspiracy to produce and supply cannabis and money laundering was jailed for seven years and four months. His partner Thanh, also of Webster Street, who pleaded guilty to the same offences, was imprisoned for 40 months.

Trang, 28, of Berry Street, Liverpool, who was convicted of the conspiracy, was jailed for 40 months and Hoai, 18, of Wellington Road, Manchester, who admitted two money laundering charges, was jailed for 18 months.

Twelve other accomplices were also sentenced by Judge Nicholas Barker at Preston Crown Court.

Toan Vo, 31, of Westminster Road, Birmingham. Kim Thien Tran, 30, and Thuong Hoai Vu, 24, both also of Webster Avenue, who each admitted to the conspiracy, were jailed for 40 months, 28 months and 24 months respectively.

Thang Van Nguyen, 34, of Pall Mall, Liverpool, who admitted to money laundering, was jailed for 17 months.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Khai Quoc Tran, 36, Hoi Thi Nguyen, 40, and Thang Nguyen, 67, all of Webster Avenue, were jailed for 18 months, 16 months and 16 months respectively, after also pleading guilty to the conspiracy.

Giap Nguyen, 34, of April Grove, Liverpool, The Ho Dong, 32, of Sharrow Grove, Blackpool, and Anh Van Nguyen, 19, of Lonsdale Road, Blackpool, who all admitted to the same plot, were jailed for 16 months, 12 months and 10 months in turn.

Two further co-conspirators are due to be sentenced by Judge Barker at Preston today.

Prosecutor Jeremy Grout-Smith told a trial hearing that the gang had spent around £88,000 on rent for the various houses involved in the drugs ring.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Adverts were circulated to potential customers boasting of the quality of the ‘skunk’ they had on offer.

Part of the inquiry revolved around the immigration status of some of those involved.

One 16-year-old girl, who was found by police after the Webster Avenue raid, had been reported missing from the Milton Keynes area by her family in 2016.