Ice-cream van owner caught with heroin worth €26k

A man who used to make his living selling whipped ice-cream to children from his van is facing a jail term after getting caught red-handed with more than €26,000 worth of heroin in a coffee jar.

Ice-cream van owner caught with heroin worth €26k

Paul Collopy, aged 41, of Gordon Drive, Ennis, Co Clare, used to have two ice-cream vans on the road before he returned to the drugs scene and at Ennis Circuit Court, he pleaded guilty to the possession of €26,796 worth of heroin on November 22 last at Ballycoree, Ennis.

Collopy was found with the heroin contained in a coffee jar on a laneway at Ballycoree when under garda surveillance on the date.

He also pleaded guilty to having four days earlier possession of a “tick-list” or a list of drug users who owed him money. That amounted to €37,920.

Det Garda Trevor Shannon agreed with counsel for Collopy, Padraic Dwyer that Collopy comes from a good family in Limerick “and has absolutely no connection to the Collopys associated with gangland feuding in Limerick”.

Det Shannon told the court that while Collopy was not an importer of the drugs or a mastermind, he would be regarded as a “significant” player in the local drugs scene.

Asked what he knew about Collopy, Det Shannon said: “What I know about this man is drugs and nothing else. He would be a substantial figure in the county in relation to drugs.”

However, Mr Dwyer objected to the evidence, telling Judge Gerald Keys this “opinion evidence” of a garda should not be admissible. Mr Dwyer said Collopy had a serious addiction himself to heroin at the time and was spending €300 per day to feed his habit.

Det Shannon said that Collopy has 69 previous convictions including one five-year jail term received over drugs in December 2007.

Collopy has previous convictions for assault, threats to kill, with the vast majority for road traffic offences.

Collopy’s father, Tadhg, gave evidence to say that he has three other grown-up children and seven grand-children and apart from Paul, none of them have ever been in trouble.

Tadgh Collopy said he worked with children with learning disabilities in the Brothers of Charity in Limerick for 37 years before retiring in 2014.

Tadgh said that his son has done his best to get away from drugs by setting up a number of businesses and sought treatment for his addiction with Victory Outreach 10 or 11 years ago.

He added that his son had an ice-cream van business and had two vans on the road at one stage while he also had a skip hire business.

He said: “If he had taken a different route, Paul would have been a very successful businessman.

“I’m convinced of that and I think it is something he can still achieve if he puts his mind to it.”

He said: “Paul comes from a good, ordinary, hard-working family and is supported by all of us. This is tough on the whole family.”

Collopy has been in custody since his arrest last November and Judge Keys remanded him in custody for sentence to June 15.

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