Grow-op bust costly for retired couple

Husband and wife give up 35 per cent of value of home and acreage

A retired Heffley Creek couple with a mom and pop grow-op in the basement of their $660,000 log home agreed to forfeit more than a third of the value of the property after a raid by RCMP.

Bruce and Ingrid Duncan signed a consent order giving up 35 per cent of the value of their home and acreage under a measure contained in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Police found about 200 pot plans in a hydroponic operation in the basement of the couple's 3,000-foot log home in a March 2010 bust.

Bruce Duncan, 62, pleaded guilty in B.C. Supreme Court to possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking. Charges against his wife were stayed by the Crown.

The couple, married 42 years, were arrested when they returned home in the afternoon to find police inside.

Crown prosecutor Anthony Varesi said the forfeiture for the "moderately sophisticated" grow-op means the couple is on the hook for an equivalent of $230,000.

The pot, if brought to market, was estimated to be worth about $38,000.

After the arrest, the Bank of Montreal made a mortgage demand on the home, eventually forcing the couple into foreclosure proceedings. They were forced to go to a secondary lender to get a second mortgage in order to pay off the bank.

They owe another $140,000 on the property through the mortgage.

Varesi said those caught under forfeiture proceedings often sell their property in order to come up with the equivalent in cash. The Crown's 35 per cent interest will be registered on the property title.

In addition to the forfeiture, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ian Meiklem gave Duncan an 18-month conditional sentence, including six months of house arrest.

Defence lawyer Greg DelBigio said Duncan, a former Sears repairman, had a stroke in past and suffers from mental health issues, exacerbated by his arrest and ensuing financial troubles.

He said Duncan uses marijuana to treat his symptoms, recently receiving a licence to do so.

"There's no suggestion he's involved in organized crime. It's a family residence," DelBegio said. "There's no traps or booby traps."

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