Jail for man who used ice cream van as cover for cocaine operation

Jail for man who used ice cream van as cover for cocaine operation

By David Raleigh

An ice-cream van driver who sold cocaine as well as ice-lollies to customers, has been jailed for four years with the final two years suspended.

Paul Collopy used his ice cream van as a cover for a major drugs distribution business, Limerick Circuit Court heard.

Collopy, (41), of Glenbrook, Bloodmill Road, Ballysimon, Limerick, started out in life earning money delivering coal from a horse and cart, the court heard.

He pleaded guilty at Limerick Circuit Court to possessing cocaine for sale or supply.

Collopy dropped a spoon and a weighing scales on the ground, outside his home, when gardai swooped on the property on November 25, 2014.

At the time, he was attempting to conceal a lunchbox, which contained cocaine, between the engine and bonnet of his van, the court heard.

Detective Garda David McGrath, Limerick Garda Divisional Drugs Unit, said Collopy was selling ice-cream from a fleet of vans in public parks and sporting venues around the city.

"He was effectively caught red handed," the detective said.

Gardai discovered over €6,000 of cocaine under the hood of the van, and inside "a money bag", which was located near a window where ice-creams and ice pops were sold to members of the public.

The money bag also included two "tick lists" containing the names of customers, "who owed money for drugs".

A drugs invoice found in the van showed €45,000 of cocaine had been sold.

Gardai also recovered €5,000 cash in Collopy's house.

Collopy, whose family have no criminal connections, had amassed 70 previous convictions.

He was jailed for five years in December 2007 of selling €17,000 of cocaine. Three years after his release in 2011, he was caught by gardai in Ennis with €28,000 of heroin for which he received a four-year sentence, after the final two years of a six-year term was imposed.

Det Garda McGrath described Collopy as a "chronic cocaine and crack cocaine addict".

"My own opinion and the opinion of the divisional drugs squad would be that he is a drugs wholesaler rather than a street dealer," the detective told the court previously.

"He would be giving the drugs to others to break down for street dealing," he added.

The court heard Collopy, a father of three, was "selling drugs to break even".

"He had a €200 a day drug habit."

State prosecutor John O'Sullivan said Collopy had come from "a good family with no criminal connections".

Outlining an insight into Collopy's troubled life, Mr O'Sullivan said: "He started sniffing glue aged ten. He started using other drugs in his teens."

"He was working from the age of twelve drawing coal on a horse and cart, and later in his own pick-up truck," he added.

The court heard Collopy was now drug-free, and had achieved music and cookery certificates while in prison on remand awaiting sentence.

Today's sentence is to run consecutively to the four-year sentence imposed at Ennis Circuit Court last June.


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