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Friday, April 17, 2009
AN Irish-American businessman with links to the IRA is facing prison and possible deportation to Ireland on weapons, fraud and immigration charges which were only uncovered by US police after his son fatally shot his friend at a party in their family home in Philadelphia.
Seán O’Neill, Snr, a 49-year-old developer and bar owner who comes originally from Coalisland, Co Tyrone, was due to plead guilty to the charges before a federal court in the US yesterday.
On top of the charges against O’Neill and his son, his daughter, Róisín, is facing homicide charges after being involved in a fatal drink-driving accident.
US police only became aware of O’Neill’s background after his daughter called them for assistance after discovering her younger brother cradling a friend in the driveway of the family home on September 1, 2006. O’Neill’s son, Seán jnr, had accidentally shot his friend, Scott Sheridan, at an underage drinking party in the O’Neill home in Willistown, Philadelphia.
During a search of the property, police found a silencer among O’Neill snr’s possessions. They subsequently discovered that O’Neill snr was convicted of membership of Fianna na hÉireann — a republican youth group with links to the IRA — in 1977.
US prosecutors claim O’Neill — a father-of-three — lied about his criminal conviction to obtain a green card when he came to the US in 1983 as well as taking part in a sham marriage to become a US resident.
It is also claimed he married his current wife, Eileen, without divorcing his first wife, while he also faces charges that he lied to buy weapons as well as several tax evasion charges relating to an Irish pub he ran.
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