Two Ballyfermot men who transported over €500,000 of cannabis resin after falling into debt with criminals because of their cocaine habits have been sentenced to a total of 18 years in prison at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
Gary Reilly (aged 36) and Antonine Conlon (aged 24) committed the offence to reduce their "debts" after being threatened by the drug dealers but were caught by gardaí conducting a surveillance operation.
Judge Katherine Delahunt sentenced Conlon to 10 years in prison with the last three suspended, while Reilly was sentenced to eight years with the last 18 months suspended.
Reilly, of Cherry Orchard Court and Conlon, of Thomond Road, pleaded guilty to possession of the drugs for sale or supply at First Avenue, Ballyfermot on February 1, 2008.
Judge Delahunt said that a very large amount of drugs had been seized which she said but the case at the "very high end".
She accepted that Reilly had since sought treatment for his addiction and had co-operated with the gardai as much as he could but said he had "the trust of the persons involved in this heinous trade".
"You were acting as a shield between the gardaí and these drug barons and I am satisfied that you were aware of the risk you were taking," Judge Delahunt told Reilly.
She accepted that Conlon had been in fear for his safety and that of his "hardworking family" and that he was a vulnerable man who had been manipulated and used. He had also got treatment for his addiction.
"You willingly engaged with these people for the purpose of obtaining drugs and you acted in the role as a courier," Judge Delahunt told Conlon.
Garda Michael Doyle told Ms Caroline Cummings BL, prosecuting, that gardai conducting a surveillance operation on foot of confidential information observed Reilly transferring packages to his taxi from a transit van driven by Conlon. Gardaí stopped the vehicles as they began to move off.
Gardaí found 121kg of cannabis resin in total valued at €847,000, with €665,000, or 95kg, of the drugs having been transferred from Conlon’s van to Reilly’s taxi.
Reilly, who has one previous conviction, told gardaí he owed €15,000 for cocaine and was told he would get €5,000 off his debt for moving the drugs. He said he would be shot if he named the criminals.
Conlon, who has 20 previous convictions, said nothing of evidential value during Garda interviews.
Gda Doyle agreed with Mr Michael Bowman BL, defending Conlon, that threats made to him and his family by people he owes a drug debt to may explain his unwillingness to give any details.
Mr Michael O’Higgins SC, defending Reilly, said his client’s marriage of 14 years ended because of this offence and it had a "devastating effect" on him. He said Reilly, a father of three, had been a taxi driver for five years.
Mr O’Higgins said Reilly had started using cocaine four years prior to the offence and quickly became addicted. He said the criminals had "a grip of him" and he was brought in at the last minute with no idea of the value of the drugs.
Mr Bowman said Conlon had started using cocaine on a recreational basis but lost control and "fell into company of negative peer influence". He said he was at the mercy of these people and his family had been threatened.
He said Conlon had the full support of his "honest, decent, hardworking" family despite the difficult and dangerous situation he has placed them in.