Aurora man behind Fergus marijuana grow-op sentenced to house arrest

Wei Chen sentenced in Guelph court to six months of house arrest for possessing cannabis with intent to sell

GUELPH – A father of two young children has been sentenced to six months of house arrest for his role as the lead man behind a Fergus marijuana growing operation.

Aurora resident Wei Chen pleaded guilty in August to two counts of possessing cannabis for the purpose of selling it.

In the summer and winter of 2021, OPP officers executed warrants at 620 Glengarry Crescent, finding what federal prosecutor Clyde Bond called a “sophisticated grow operation.”

Court heard of six rooms inside the commercial building filled with thousands of plants, a living area, camera feeds on a big screen TV, bundles of cash, and 130 pounds of processed cannabis bud.

Corporate records obtained by the Advertiser list Chen as president and director of the numbered corporation that leased the building, and racked up hydro bills the prosecution said “regularly exceeded” $30,000 each month.

Police searched Chen’s phone, finding what the prosecution called “damning” evidence in photos and text messages.

In December 2021, Chen was found by police at his Aurora home with utility bills for the Fergus building; several cell phones; bags of cannabis leaves, stems and trimmings; a money counter; and several pounds of vacuum-sealed cannabis bud.

The 42-year-old was charged in relation to the June and December police investigations.

Speaking through a Mandarin interpreter in Guelph court in August, Chen pleaded with Justice Matthew Stanley to exercise restraint and give him “a chance.”

Chen appeared in Guelph court again on Sept. 28 for sentencing, when Stanley said Chen was “clearly aware that what he was doing was not legal” and was “involved heavily” in the operation.

“In this case, the sentence must be one of custody,” Stanley said.

However, the judge also noted Chen had no criminal record, is employed, and completed an “impressive” 100 hours of community service by volunteering with the Salvation Army.

The guilty pleas also demonstrated remorse, Stanley added.

Although the judge acknowledged “social views on use and possession of marijuana have certainly changed,” he said criminal activity still needs to be condemned.

Chen’s defence lawyer Darren Sederoff asked for conditional discharges, which is a finding of guilt without a conviction, followed by two years of probation.

In this case, the maximum penalty is a $5,000 fine and/or six months in jail.

The prosecution asked for maximum sentences of six months on each of the two counts, for a total of one year behind bars.

However the judge handed Chen a concurrent sentence of six months house arrest. That means sentences for each of the two counts are served at the same time.

The judge said he viewed Chen’s offences as continuous, explaining his rationale for the type of sentencing.

Chen must spend all six months at home, with an exception for getting life necessities on Saturdays between 12 and 4pm, and is ordered not to have any weapons.

A large cash forfeiture order was agreed to by Chen and two other co-accused men, whose charges were withdrawn at the Crown’s request.