A Meath horticultural expert who assisted a sophisticated cannabis growing operation has been sentenced to six years at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
Gerard Coffey (aged 55) was caught outside a warehouse in which 655 cannabis plants were being grown inside a specially built enclosure. A further 42 plants were found in a greenhouse at his Navan home.
The court heard the total value of the plants was just under €350,000 and that Coffey was brought in on the operation as a horticultural expert who could advise on the “cloning” of cannabis plants.
Coffey, of Tankardstown, Navan pleaded guilty to cultivation of the plants at his home and at Rathcoole Business Park on July 25, 2008.
Judge Katherine Delahunt noted his lack of previous convictions and but said he was involved in a “well operated and clearly well functioning plot.” She commented that he was “above the middle-level” of involvement and that this warranted a six-year term with the final two suspended.
Garda Ciaran O’Neill told prosecuting counsel, Mr Colm O’Briain BL, that a surveillance operation had been monitoring the premises in the business park and gardaí moved in when a black BMW pulled up at the warehouse and man got out.
The BMW drove off and gardaí found the man inside watering the plants. Gda O’Neill said a unit had been built inside the warehouse and fitted with air-conditioning, polythene walls and grow lights. He said it was “a sophisticated operation” which would have cost between €30,000 and €40,000 to set up.
A short time later the BMW returned with Coffey in the passenger seat. The car was stopped by gardaí and he was arrested. His home was searched later that day and a smaller growing operation was found in his greenhouse.
He said in interview that he had met the men behind the operation in a head shop in Navan and was giving them advice “in the hope of a few bob.” He said he had taken the plants found in his home as part-payment. He said he would smoke most of what he grew himself and sometimes give some to friends.
Defence counsel, Mr Tony McGillicuddy BL, said his client was a mechanic by trade and was married with one teenage daughter.
He submitted that Coffey was not a drug dealer and naive when it came to the value of the plants.
He said his client had entered an early guilty plea and co-operated fully with gardaí on arrest
He added that Coffey had smoked cannabis since he was 14 and has also struggled with alcoholism over the years.