Three jailed for extorting €67,000 from crash victim

Tue, Jul 31, 2012, 01:00

THREE MEN convicted of extorting €67,000 from a Co Louth man three years ago have been jailed for terms of eight and 10 years.

Gerard Stokes (31), Muirhevnamore, Dundalk, Co Louth, a father of two, David McDonagh (33) a father of four from Reask Court, Navan, Co Meath, and father-of-five James McDonagh (46), Grange Drive, Muirhevnamore, Dundalk, had been found guilty by a jury at Dundalk Circuit Court this month of demanding money with menaces from Niall Hearty on July 7th, 2009, at Stokes’s home and on the following day at Muirhevnamore.

Det Garda Adrian Donoghue told a sentence hearing, before Judge Ray Fullam at the Central Courts of Justice in Dublin yesterday, that Mr Hearty was still living in fear and was considering emigrating with his family because of the incident.

The court heard that Mr Hearty, who was awarded €159,000 compensation after a car crash, had gone to Stokes’s house on July 7th, 2009, after Stokes had rung him to discuss the possibility of buying or exchanging a vehicle. They met the other two men in the kitchen where a shotgun was produced.

The three demanded money and threatened Mr Hearty and his family. Following two visits to his bank, Mr Hearty handed over €57,000 to the men.

The next day all three called to him and said it would cost him another €10,000 to call off a hit-man who was on his way from Dublin to kill him. He gave a bank draft for that amount to Stokes.

Mr Hearty told gardaí the men had threatened to shoot him and his family and said they did not care if he got the gardaí or the IRA as they would shoot them as well.

In a victim-impact statement read by Kevin Seagrave, prosecuting, to the court, Mr Hearty said his life had been turned upside down since July 9th, 2009.

“I have no comfort in my life around Dundalk as I am afraid to walk around the town for fear of meeting these men and their families. I’m looking over my shoulder all the time for every car or van that passes me.” Mr Hearty said he only went places where he knew there would be gardaí or CCTV.

“I have not walked my kids to or from school since that day in July 2009,” he said.

He said that he had intended to buy his partner’s council house for their children’s future and have two hip operations he needed because of the car crash but he no longer had the money.

Barristers for all three defendants said their clients apologised for the stress they had caused Mr Hearty and his family.

Judge Fullam said the offences, which had been planned and premeditated, were “abominably evil crimes committed by people who thought they were untouchable”.

The judge sentenced Stokes and James McDonagh to eight years each and imposed a sentence of 10 years on David McDonagh, who had been involved in a previous robbery in Dundalk.

The judge also directed that €18,960 found during a Garda search of Stokes’s home following his arrest be handed over to Mr Hearty.