Man given conditional sentence for tending grow-op

A man caught tending a Burnaby marijuana grow-operation was given a 15-month sentence recently in B.C. Supreme Court.

Huy Van Dao was convicted in June of possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking but Justice Jon Sigurdson found him not guilty of actively participating in the grow-operation.

On the afternoon of April 13, 2007, Burnaby RCMP executed a search warrant at 5990 Berwick St. After knocking, they forced their way inside and found Dao in the kitchen.

Dao had a key to the home and he had been in the house for about 30 minutes before the police arrived, according to Sigurdson's reasons for sentence.

The one-storey house had a basement which was "entirely devoted" to a grow-operation and where 1,046 marijuana plants were found. There was evidence on the upper floor that "would have made it apparent to Mr. Dao that the house was a grow-operation."

The expert evidence at trial was that the grow-op was solely for profit, the plants were valued from about $392,000 on a pound basis to $878,000 on a gram basis.

Dao was not the owner or tenant of the house and the Crown did not claim he was a principal in the operation "but rather on the day of the arrest was a caretaker or gardener in the operation."

There is no evidence Dao profited significantly from the grow-op but "the reasonable inference, of course, is that significant compensation was his reason for participating."

His wife was with him when he was arrested, but there was insufficient evidence to find her guilty of any of the alleged offences.

Dao is 44, married with two young-adult children. He immigrated to Canada in 1991, became a Canadian citizen in 1994, his English is poor and he has only a Grade 7 education. He has no prior criminal record and this was a first offence.

Evidence from his children, his employer, Superior Tofu, where he has worked for over a year, his doctor and his accountant indicate he is "otherwise a hardworking family man and a good father."

Sigurdson said he believes Dao is remorseful and unlikely to reoffend.

He sentenced Dao to 15 months to be served in the community with conditions including that he perform 50 hours of community service and stay home between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless working or doing other approved activities. On weekends he is allowed one four-hour period, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on either Saturday or Sunday, to leave home for errands or exercise. He also received a 10-year firearms prohibition and must submit a DNA sample.

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