A former All-Ireland club football champion had been found guilty by the Special Criminal Court of involvement with a cross-border gang which stole hundreds of thousands of euro by using stolen diggers to pull ATMs from walls.
Daniel O'Callaghan (31), who won three All-Ireland medals with Crossmaglen Rangers, was found guilty of all 16 counts against him relating to an ATM theft and an attempted ATM theft in Cavan and Monaghan in 2019.
Ms Justice Tara Burns at the three-judge, non-jury court found O'Callaghan was "intimately involved" in the planning of the thefts, which followed a "modus operandi" seen in several other thefts that the court said were carried out by the same gang earlier in 2019 and in late 2018.
The final attempt to steal an ATM was thwarted by gardaí who were watching as the gang drove a digger up beside an ATM in Virginia, Co Cavan in the early hours on August 14, 2019. Gardaí saw a stolen Toyota Landcruiser in convoy with the digger. The Landcruiser was pulling a trailer into which the gang intended to place the ATM before taking it to a premises at Tullypole, Moynalty, Co Meath where the money would be taken from it. Gardaí would later discover more than €438,000 hidden in various locations and buried in the ground at Tullypole.
When gardaí rammed the Landcruiser, O'Callaghan and another man ran from it and a third man ran from the digger. All three jumped over a wall into a field but before they got away a garda from the National Surveillance Unit (NSU) and another garda from the Emergency Response Unit identified O'Callaghan.
Ms Justice Burns said the method used by the gang required careful preparation. They carried out the thefts early in the morning when there were few people or gardaí around. In each case they used a digger to dig the machine out of the wall in an “efficient and skilled manner”. The gang members were also forensically aware, she said, and occasionally set fire to the vehicles they had used, used “burner” mobile phones and crossed the Border to escape the attention of gardaí.
O'Callaghan of Monog Road, Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, had pleaded not guilty to offences under Section 72 and 73 of the Criminal Justice Act. He was found guilty of the attempted theft of an ATM at the Riverfront Hotel, Main Street, Virginiaon August 14, 2019, for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a criminal organisation.
He was also found guilty of the theft of an ATM on Main Street, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, on April 3, 2019 for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a criminal organisation.
He was found guilty of two charges of participating or contributing to the possession of cash totalling €125,930 intending to facilitate the commission by a criminal organisation or any of its members of a serious offence at Tullypole, Moynalty, Co Meath, on August 14 and 20, 2019.
He was found guilty too of possessing €298,000 at the same location on August 14, 2019, along with a charge of possessing a petrol can intending to use it or cause or permit another to use it to damage a stolen Toyota Landcruiser with false plates in Virginia, also on August 14.
In addition, he was found guilty of possessing a stolen Toyota Landcruiser, possession of a stolen 14-tonne digger and appropriating a digger without the consent of its owner in Virginia.
And he was convicted of being in possession of bolt-cutters with the intent of stealing a 14-tonne digger, with the attempted dishonest appropriation of the ATM at the Riverfront in Virginia and with being in possession of a stolen flatbed trailer all on August 14, 2019. He was also convicted of counts relating to criminal damage at the ATM in Castleblayney and attempted criminal damage in Virginia.
Ms Justice Burns said the court was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that O’Callaghan was “at a very minimum” acting in association with a criminal organisation.
It was clear, she said, that he was involved in planning the thefts and that he was associated with the premises at Tullypole where large amounts of cash were seized by gardaí.
She said his involvement in the theft at Castleblayney in April 2019 was proven by the presence in the stolen trailer at Virginia of parts of the debris from the earlier theft. She said the prosecution had also established he was linked to the premises at Tullypole where the money from the ATM thefts was being stored. She said that although his presence at Castleblayney could not be established, the various strands of circumstantial evidence gave rise to the “inevitable conclusion that the accused was intimately involved in the workings of the criminal organisation and was involved in a joint enterprise to effect the theft at Castleblayney.”
Ms Justice Burns remanded O’Callaghan in custody for a sentencing hearing on March 4.
Others involved with O'Callaghan in the cross-border gang have already entered guilty pleas to various offences. In December, Gerard Duffy (31) of Greagh, Loughnamore, Co Monaghan, pleaded guilty to the attempted theft of an ATM at the Riverfront Bar & Restaurant, Main Street, Virginia, on August 14, 2019.
He had been charged with the attempted theft of the ATM and its contents for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with, a criminal organisation, contrary to Section 73 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006.
Brother Ciaran Duffy (28) of the same address, pleaded guilty at the court to three offences connected to the same investigation. He pleaded guilty to participating in criminal activities while in a Toyota Avensis at Tullypole, Moynalty, Co Meath on August 20, 2019 by participating in the movement of cash on behalf of a criminal organisation. He pleaded guilty to attempting to commit an offence under the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud) Act by attempting to steal the ATM and its contents at the Riverfront Bar & Restaurant. And he also pleaded guilty to participating in or contributing to the possession of cash at Tullypole, Moynalty, on August 14, 2019, intending to facilitate the commission of an offence by a criminal organisation.
Eldest brother Stephen Duffy (35) of Tullynahinera, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan admitted to possessing cash at The Yard, Tullypole, Moynalty, Co Meath, on August 20, 2019, in association with a criminal organisation. The three brothers will be sentenced on March 4 next.
In November, Niall Finnegan (39) was jailed for four-and-a-half years with the final 18 months suspended for possessing cash, which was the proceeds of the ATM thefts carried out by the gang.
Finnegan of Cherry Grove, Cullyhanna, Co Armagh, pleaded guilty in July at the court to possessing or handling €103,000 at Tullypole in August 2019.