THE masterminds behind an £820,000 cannabis dealing ring - which was uncovered in East Lancashire - are now facing significant jail sentences.

Detectives unpicked a drugs network stretching across the north after raiding a house in Roe Greave Road, Oswaldtwistle, last February.

Dozens of cannabis plants, with a street value of around £80,000, were recovered from a terraced house.

This would eventually lead to swoops on no fewer than 18 properties, including homes in the Preston and Blackpool areas, but as far afield as sites in Liverpool and Birmingham also.

Det Sgt Stuart Peall, who led the investigation, codenamed Operation Renard, told the Lancashire Telegraph that around £200,000 in cash was also seized.

Jack Nguyen, 30, and Trang Nyguen, 28, both Vietnamese nationals, were identified as the ringleaders, a trial hearing at Preston Crown Court was told.

Prosecutor Jeremy Grout-Smith said the pair had rented the Oswaldtwistle house the previous December using false names and documentation.

Later it would emerge that they were paying more than £88,000 a year on rented properties across the north-west.

Mr Grout-Smith said the defendants pretended to be a couple with a young child and paid deposits for rent in cash up front and supplied false passports and false references from previous landlords to secure the houses. Their drugs were advertised to interested parties as 'skunk'.

Investigations would then focus later on a property in Webster Avenue, Bootle, which saw five Vietnamese nationals arrested. Fraudulent papers and cannabis production equipment was also impounded.

That same week, as part of the same inquiry, detectives pulled over a car on the M6 in Cumbria and recovered a holdall containing £75,000 in cash.

Seventeen people, including Jack and Trang Nguyen, eventually went on trial, variously accused of conspiracy to deal in cannabis and money laundering.

Jack Nguyen, of Webster Avenue, pleaded guilty to the cannabis conspiracy and money laundering offences partway through the trial. Trang Nguyen was found guilty of the drugs conspiracy but not guilty of money laundering.

Fourteen other Vietnamese nationals have either pleaded guilty or been convicted of the same conspiracy. Jurors were deadlocked in the case of one of the defendants.

Trial judge Nicholas Barker has adjourned the case for a two-day sentencing hearing on December 10 and 11.

Speaking after the case, Det Sgt Peall said: "This was certainly one of the largest cannabis dealing operations of recent years in Lancashire and were are pleased to have secured these convictions."

He said previously that the gang was responsible for "bringing misery to a number of vulnerable people".

Part of the inquiry revolved around the immigration status of some of those involved. One 16-year-old girl, found after the Webster Avenue raid, had been reported missing from the Milton Keynes areas in 2016.