Electricity-stealing Masterton drug grower shocks

By Kelli Hooks

"The most dangerous wiring I've come across in 40 years", is how an electrician has described a Carterton home-grown cannabis operation.

A judge has condemned the actions of unemployed Masterton man Craig Stewart McLachlan, who pleaded guilty to cultivating cannabis and the theft of power when he appeared in the Masterton District Court yesterday.

McLachlan, 39, had set up a cannabis grow room, complete with heat lamps and fans, in the Carterton house and rewired the power meter, to gain free electricity for the room. By doing so, he put the homeowner and neighbours at risk of fire, said Judge Bill Hastings.

An electrician used by police examined the meter and said it was the most dangerous wiring he had come across in his 40 years' experience, and was a major fire risk.

The room was contained within a locked area at the back of the garage.

Police said McLachlan had been stealing power for about two years, which coincided with a change in the electricity provider to Tiny Mighty Power in 2011.

On May 29, police executed a search warrant at the Wakelin St house and discovered the grow room, which held 32 plants, from seedlings through to a heavily budded mature plant.

Writing on a wall detailed dates and types of cannabis, indicating the grow operation had been in place for about three years.

Tiny Mighty Power estimated he had stolen about $700 worth of electricity in that time.

Defence lawyer Ian Hard said while McLachlan did not dispute the charges, he disputed the length of time he had been stealing electricity and the length of the operation itself.

"He doesn't agree that he's been using the power for two years," Mr Hard said. Despite this, McLachlan was prepared to pay reparations.

Judge Hastings ordered McLachlan to pay reparation of $700 to the electricity company and sentenced him to 160 hours of community work.

- Wairarapa Times-Age

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