A member of an INTERNATIONAL gang caught moving “obscene” amounts of crime money – over €600,000 – would have been better off driving “a cheap done deal” than the €72,000 Mercedes found at the Surgery was used, a judge noted.
Today, the state applied to the Special Criminal Court to take possession of the 2018-registered S-Class Mercedes owned by Thomas Rooney, 52, who was described as a “middle-to-high” member of the gang.
Rooney, of Betaghstown, County Meath, pleaded guilty last July, on the 11th of 2020.
He pleaded guilty to two other charges of possessing cash, also obtained from criminal offenses. Rooney pleaded guilty to possession of €254,840 in a black holdall, also at Donore Road, and €7,650 at North Road, Drogheda, both on 11 May 2020.
All three charges are offenses under Section 7 of the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing) Act 2010.
Rooney was sentenced to six years in prison by a three-judge court in January this year.
In May last year, Rooney’s then-partner Catherine Dawson, 44, also from Betaghstown, with whom he has two children, was sentenced to probation by the Special Court for her role in raising money for the gang.
Dawson admitted to possessing the contents of the Nike bag in the parking lot. A caretaker who used a company car as a cover to transport the money was sentenced to three years and nine months in prison, but was suspended for five years on condition she behaved decently.
Today in the three-judge court, Garret Baker BL said the state is seeking forfeiture of the Mercedes owned by Rooney’s chauffeur-service company EBT Executive Travel Ltd.
Mr Baker filed the application under Section 61 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994, which states that the State may apply for forfeiture where property “has been used for the purpose of committing or facilitating the commission of a criminal offence”.
Mr Baker told the court the state was seeking forfeiture of the car because Rooney pleaded guilty to counting €7,650 in cash from an envelope in the vehicle. The attorney said Rooney also sent coordinating texts from a phone attached to the car to Dawson, who texted back confirming the plan.
The attorney said Rooney wrote “another one” to Dawson regarding another bag of money that was supposed to be taken to her vehicle by an unidentified man. Dawson responded with a “K,” which Mr. Baker took to be short for “OK.”
Mr Baker said any notion that the vehicle would be “divorced” for the operation was “imaginative and artificial”. He said the vehicles were used “very deliberately” to transfer the money in sacks and meet in the car park, then move “in convoy” but unbeknownst to the Garda surveillance operation at the scene.
The lawyer said the value of the Mercedes was €72,000 in 2018, when EBT took out a loan to buy it. Mr Baker said Rooney said in his Garda interviews: “I thought I’d be smart about switching cars.”
“It was a deliberate, deliberate and premeditated strategy to use multiple vehicles to reduce detection,” said Mr Baker, adding that this was an “obvious example of the use of the vehicle in the commission or facilitation of a crime” ” .
The presiding judge, Mr Justice Tony Hunt, said Rooney would have been better off with a “cheap banger from the done deal” than the “high-end” vehicle in question, which Mr Baker agreed, saying if anyone “rumbled” would be such an offense that the consequences may “exceed personal liberty.”
“It is a legitimate request when people engage in obscene amounts of money that have been criminally generated,” Mr Baker said.
John D. Fitzgerald SC, for Rooney, said his client admitted from the outset that he was involved in the money transport and that he excused his former partner Dawson from the operation.
Mr Fitzgerald said the two holdalls were not in the Mercedes wanted by the state at the time of the arrest. He added that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) accepted that the car was part of Rooney’s “legitimate business”.
The defense attorney said the car’s forfeiture would cause undue hardship to his client, who needed the car to continue trading if he was released from prison.
Regarding the “hardship” argument put forward by Mr. Fitzgerald, Mr. Justice Hunt said that individuals utilizing limited liability company status must accept the benefits of that status, but also accept the burdens.
Mr Fitzgerald said that the DPP accepted that the car was used for legitimate business purposes but that on that occasion his client accepted that it was used for a criminal offence.
In response, Mr Baker said the car was “essential” to the commission of the offense as it was used in an “A-to-B” crime money strategy and that the phone used by Rooney to coordinate the operation was “physically connected”. into the car”.
Mr Justice Hunt adjourned the matter to 2 June for a decision on forfeiture.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/gang-member-caught-moving-crime-cash-would-have-been-better-off-driving-banger-off-done-deal-rather-than-mercedes-says-judge-41601410.html Gang member caught moving crime money would have been better off driving ‘done deal bangers’ than Mercedes, judge says