Two Vietnamese nationals responsible for looking after hydroponic cannabis set-ups inside two Wollongong houses have each been sentenced to 18 months behind bars.
Hung Manh Ngo, 22, and Vu Dang Hong Pham, 28, were hired by unidentified people to act as "crop sitters" and tend to the burgeoning plants, which were being grown inside properties on Cabbage Tree Lane at Fairy Meadow and Hercules Street in West Wollongong.
Court documents said police received a tip-off about suspected drug activity at the Fairy Meadow house, prompting them to carry out surveillance on the property.
They recorded Ngo and Pham entering the house just after 3pm on June 25. Detectives swooped on the property an hour later and arrested both men.
They found 43 cannabis plants growing inside three rooms in the house, which had been set up with sophisticated irrigation, filtration and lighting systems.
Acting on further information, police raided the second property in Hercules Street the next day, uncovering another 145 cannabis plants.
Ngo and Pham were charged with cultivating a commercial quantity of cannabis, to which they pleaded guilty earlier this year.
During a sentencing hearing in Wollongong District Court on Tuesday, lawyers for both men said they had grown up in northern Vietnam to working class families, who had made great financial sacrifices to send them to Australia to further their studies.
Judge Andrew Haesler accepted the two men had no prior criminal histories and had been motivated by their desire to help their respective families.
"They were taken advantage of and their need for cash taken advantage of," he said.
"[But] both young men chose, for reward, to engage themselves in serious criminal activity.
"I'm not sure either fully appreciated the consequences of their actions.
"I suspect they did but hoped they wouldn't get caught.
"Once their sentences are finished, I suspect they will be deported and return to Vietnam in disgrace."
In determining the appropriate sentences, Judge Haesler noted neither man had been responsible for setting up the operations, lamenting that those who did were rarely identified, caught and brought to justice.
"It's clear someone was expecting to make significant profit from this; the expenditure in setting up the two premises clearly indicates the profit that was expected," he said.
Ngo and Pham, who have been in custody since their arrest, will be released on a 12-month parole period on Christmas Eve this year.