Mechanical engineer confesses to cultivating hydroponic cannabis under house at Warilla

An Illawarra man earning up to $4,500 a week as a fly-in, fly-out mechanical engineer has confessed to growing hydroponic cannabis under his house for profit.

Matthew Joseph Ciantar, 41, was due to stand trial in Wollongong District Court this week on drug supply and cultivation charges, however pleaded guilty to both offences on Tuesday morning.

A set of agreed facts tendered to the court reveal police nabbed Ciantar in September 2014 in possession of more than 50 cannabis plants of varying size at his Warilla home.

Police carried out a search warrant at the house on the afternoon of September 23, discovering a sophisticated hydroponic setup spread throughout three rooms underneath the house.

The first room, the largest of the trio and formerly used as a granny flat, contained 31 small plants measuring about 20cm in height, plus a further seven medium sized plants standing about 70cm tall.

Police said soil had been removed from under the house to create space in the second and third rooms.

The second room had 10 large plants inside, measuring from 1-1.5 metres high, while the third room contained a further seven large plants, also about 1-1.5 metres high.

Spread throughout the three rooms was a sophisticated hydroponic system which included 45 transformers, 22 halogen lights, numerous fans, an exhaust extraction system, ventilation ducting with several large charcoal filters and a automatic irrigation system connected to a 1000 litre water tank.

When interviewed, Ciantar said the system was full automated and had been designed so he could leave it unattended for long periods of time while he was working away from home.

Police also found a single cannabis plant “drying” in a downstairs laundry. Ciantar told officers he smoked up to five joints a day to relieve back pain.

However, he admitted the amount he was cultivating was too large for personal use and confessed he’d planned to sell the surplus from his growing operation.

The court heard he worked as a mechanical engineer earning between $3,500 and $4,500 as a flu-in, fly-out worker.

He will be sentenced next year.