man convicted for dopiest home video

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    Man convicted for dopiest home video
    By Milanda Rout and Mark Buttler
    December 15, 2004

    A GREEN thumb who made a Burke's Backyard-style instructional video for dope growers about his own $1.5 million crop was behind bars last night.

    Gelu Pucea spent eight months lovingly cultivating 258 marijuana plants in remote bushland, growing some to 6m high.

    But Pucea's video recording of his horticultural skill was his downfall when police found it three years after his crop disappeared.

    Pucea, 39, yesterday pleaded guilty to nine charges including cultivating a commercial quantity of drugs and trafficking cannabis.

    An edited version of the three-hour video was screened to the Victorian County Court sitting in Bairnsdale yesterday.

    It details all stages of growing a marijuana crop from picking a plot to what fertiliser to use.

    The video begins with Pucea filming in September 2000 at the Tambo River in Gippsland and introducing himself as "Nick the Riverman".

    "In this film I would like to show you how to successfully grow pot or marijuana in a place such as this," he says.

    "So let's get started, we have a lot of work to do."

    While Pucea devoted himself to the crop and video, camping by the plants for months, he was aware of the legal risk.

    "You will not see me in the video for mainly law enforcement reasons," he says at the start.

    "But you will hear my voice all along the way."

    At one point in the film Pucea talks about plot preparation, saying: "Here's a plot I prepared earlier," borrowing a line from TV cooking shows.

    The video charts the eight-month growth of the 258 plants, including footage of when the plants are between 4m and 6m high. "With a bit of luck and good weather I'll make some good money," he says.

    Pucea detailed every aspect of the plant's development, even problems with brown rot.

    "It is heartbreaking," he says of watching one 4m plant die.

    Pucea lived next to his crop in remote bushland 15km from Bruthen for eight months.

    Prosecutor David O'Doherty told the court the crop would have retailed on the street for up to $1.5 million and up to $500,000 wholesale.

    He said Pucea indicated in the video he was going to sell it wholesale.

    Mr Doherty told the court Pucea's crop campsite was sophisticated and included a sleeping tent, food storage tent and a drying hut.

    He said the 39-year-old used a raft to transport supplies so he would avoid leaving a track.

    The court heard the Bairnsdale CIU, headed by Detective Senior Constable Andrew Mehlert, searched the crop site in November 2003 after a tip-off.

    But while the marijuana crop was gone, they recovered the video and a diary buried in a barrel.

    This led them to Pucea, who was arrested in April this year.

    Defence lawyer Kevin Doyle told the court Pucea had a hard life.

    He said Pucea, who is trained in horticulture and forestry, had fled from Romania in the late 1980s. Mr Doyle said Pucea was a respected member of the community who often did gardening at the local church.

    He told the court it was an unusual case because Pucea was charged over marijuana that only existed on a videotape.

    Mr Doyle said his client had not sold the 258 plants - he simply left them to rot after having a change of heart.

    Pucea, of Bruthen, will be sentenced by Judge Geoff Chettle tomorrow.

    Herald Sun
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