An alleged multimillion-dollar hydroponic cannabis growing syndicate was using false identities to rent more than a dozen properties in a bid to continue growing their crops undetected, police say.

Heavily-armed police conducted dawn raids on at least 16 properties across Sydney’s west and north-west on Tuesday morning after a three-month investigation into the alleged syndicate.

At least four properties at Carlingford, including one next to a school, and other homes in Greystanes, Smithfield, Eastwood, Parramatta, Beecroft, Concord West, Dundas Valley, Eastwood, North Epping, Dulwich Hill, Rydalmere and Bankstown were also targeted by Strike Force Kilkee.

The strike force, run by the Drug and Firearms Squad, was set up in September to investigate the alleged syndicate.

Two men, a 26-year-old Dulwich Hill man and a 24-year-old Bankstown man, have been arrested and will be charged with cultivating commercial cannabis by enhanced means.

Police will allege more than 2200 cannabis plants, with a street value in excess of $11 million, were seized.

At the Dulwich Hill address, police also allegedly seized just under $70,000 in cash.

“The syndicate has been operating for quite some time and they are operating on three levels: the syndicate heads, the middle management and then you have got the crop sitters who provide cultivation and nourishment to the crops and security to the premises,” Drug and Firearms Squad commander Detective Superintendent Peter McErlain said.

Most of the properties were rented using false identities before the syndicate would take over.

“In this investigation, it appears the group has been working somewhat like a franchise: renting homes and then bringing in a group of people to modify the premises, installing electrical bypasses, and supplying the hydroponic equipment and seedlings,” Superintendent McErlain said.

“As we’ve seen from previous investigations, the groups will often then recruit or coerce vulnerable or debt-ridden members of the community to cultivate the plants.

“We have now seized a significant amount of their product, and taken a chunk from their profits, and we intend to locate them and put them before the courts.”

Superintendent McErlain said the greatest concern for police were the suburban locations of the “hydro houses”.

“It is disturbing to find these set-ups in quiet residential areas, near parks, community areas, shopping centres, and even schools,” he said.

“We know criminal syndicates choose these types of locations because they believe the houses look relatively normal from the outside and, if they’re not noticed, they will have significantly higher profits.

“What is not considered by these groups is the significant risk of harm these places pose to the community.

“The insides of the houses were modified for the sophisticated hydroponic set-ups and fitted with extremely dangerous – and illegal – electrical bypasses.

“A surge in power or illegal rewiring carried out to bypass the meter can quite easily cause a fire or electrocution, which poses a great risk to their unsuspecting neighbours.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.