A bitcoin trader and a film technician were involved in an online global operation described as “a new era in drug dealing”, a court heard.
Neil Mannion and Richard O’Connor, both aged 34, were charged with possessing drugs worth €143,000 after a Garda raid on a business premises in south Dublin in October 2014.
Det Sgt Brian Roberts compared the operation of selling drugs on the ‘dark net’ to eBay or Amazon: “It’s a new phenomenon that’s growing and ultimately the modern era of drug dealing.”
Mannion, of Mount Drummond Avenue, Harold’s Cross, Dublin, and O’Connor, of Clonskeagh Rd, Clonskeagh, Dublin, both pleaded guilty to possession of LSD, amphetamine, and cannabis resin with intent to sell or supply at Bank House Business Centre, South Circular Rd, on November 5, 2014. Neither man has any previous convictions.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard former Eircom worker Mannion had set up the online drug dealing business and that O’Connor was paid up to €600 a week to post the packages to customers in countries such as the US, Japan, Argentina, and Czech Republic.
Judge Martin Nolan said he would think about the case and deal with it at 2pm on Monday. He remanded both men in custody to then.
Det Sgt Roberts told Caroline Cummings, prosecuting, that he and colleagues placed Mannion under surveillance after receiving confidential information about a computer IP address.
They followed his car to the business address and later obtained a search warrant. Gardaí found Mannion and O’Connor on the premises, along with a holdall containing the drugs, a vacuum packing machine, weighing scales, envelopes, and labels for posting.
During his 11 Garda interviews, Mannion explained that the operation was “just a market place like any other market place, like eBay”.
He took full responsibility for the drugs seized and described how he would post drug orders to different countries after trading in the digital currency bitcoin.
He admitted selling drugs on the ‘dark net’ websites Silk Road and Agora.
Det Sgt Roberts told the court that O’Connor, who is self-employed as a grip in the film industry, had a “secondary part” as he had only been involved with posting and packaging the drugs.
The detective agreed with Michael O’Higgins, defending Mannion, that it was not difficult to access the dark net and anyone who was a “little tech-savvy” would be able to do so.
Det Sgt Roberts said Mannion “is not the normal type of criminal we deal with”.
He agreed with Seán Guerin, defending O’Connor, that his client had not been the Garda surveillance target and had had drug issues at the time. Det Sgt Roberts agreed with both counsel that their clients had been fully co-operative and were unlikely to be before the courts again.
Mr O’Higgins submitted to Judge Nolan that Mannion
had not made any significant money from dealing drugs or had led an extravagant lifestyle.
Mr Guerin submitted that O’Connor had had a drug dependency at the time but was now clean and had a “bright future” in the film industry.
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