A LARGE scale cannabis grower has been jailed after he posed as a well-paid aircraft engineer to hide his huge illegal profits.

Josef MacNamara ran a 144 plant cannabis factory in a compound at Sandford, near Crediton which was capable of producing £1.4 million worth of drugs a year.

He bought a large house with the profits by making a false mortgage application for £415,000 in which he claimed to be earning more than £100,000 as an aeronautic engineer.

The TSB Bank loaned him the money without asking whether the aviation company he said he worked for even existed.

He had named his mother Lady O’Hagan, who is married to a former Tory MEP, as his boss but the details were not checked.

MacNamara claimed his unexplained wealth was buried treasure in the form of tens of thousands of pounds cash which his late father won through gambling and hidden at secret locations.

He told a jury that his father had told him on his death bed where to find the money in buried pipes around the compound at Longridge, Sandford and he had dug it up.

A Judge at Exeter Crown Court rejected his account as “nonsense” as he jailed him for four years and four months and set a timetable for an investigation into his assets which is likely to result in all his property being seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

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

He admitted production of cannabis and fraud and was jailed for 52 months by Judge David Evans.

He told him: “For many years before the police raided your compound, you used it as a site for a cannabis factory. You said you were distilling oil from cannabis to deal with a back problem. What the police found showed that to be a lie.

“This was production of cannabis on a vast scale, far greater than could be accounted for by distillation or personal use.

“When your finances were investigated, it was clear that for many years you had been laundering the proceeds of cannabis sales and living a cash rich lifestyle.

“You said cash came from working on vehicles but you kept no records of any kind whatsoever. You said you father revealed he had buried tens of thousands of pounds in various locations around the compound. That was nonsense.”

The judge expressed surprised that the TSB had given him a mortgage without checking his claim to be earning £100,000 a year as an aeronautic engineer with a fictional company called FlyLite.

Mr Peter Coombe, defending, said MacNamara faces total ruin because the compound where he grew the drug and where he lives will be seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

He said MacNamara has also been helping his mother and per partner with day to day tasks and will be unable to continue while he is in jail.

During he trial, the jury heard that MacNamara ran a production line with young plants being brought on to replace those harvested. He was caught with 11 kilograms of the drug, packaged for wholesale delivery.

A police expert estimated the set-up was capable of growing cannabis worth at least £380,000 a year at wholesale prices and £1.4 million in street prices.

Police raided the compound at Longridge on July 9, 2020, and found a professional set up which had been running for at least three years and capable of producing eight to 13 crops a year.

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.

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