When the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab) kicked in doors in Dublin's Ballyfermot, Ballyboughal and Finglas and in the Wexford seaside town of Courtown one morning in August 2017, they were targeting David Reilly.
The 36-year-old from Croftwood Grove, Ballyfermot, had been on the Garda radar for more than a decade and his gangland boss, Derek O’Driscoll (46), Meagans Lane, Crooksling, Saggart, Co Dublin, has a criminal record stretching back more than three decades. Together, with O’Driscoll as leader of a drugs distribution network and Reilly his loyal enforcer, they run crime on the disadvantaged streets of their native Ballyfermot.
Some of their modus operandi was unmasked in the High Court this week when the Cab confiscated cash and other assets with a combined value of almost €300,000. But, unusually for a Cab case, the money – and a mobile home and horse box – is only one part of this gruesome story.
The money was clearly coming from some of the biggest construction companies in the country; all working on community housing projects for Dublin City Council
The Irish Times has pieced together many of the other details of O’Driscoll’s and Reilly’s lives of crime. What emerges is a textbook study in how thug law is enforced on the streets of Dublin.
O’Driscoll and Reilly have used an insidious brand of intimidation and control, all underpinned by lengthy criminal records and reputations for ultra violence, to rule Ballyfermot.
They control the drugs trade in the area, dealing cannabis, cocaine and heroin into the community. Rather than hold drugs themselves, they force others to do it for them. Anyone who loses a consignment – to the Garda or other criminals – is severely beaten by the men they control and then too fearful to report the attacks.
Larger consignments of drugs and guns are also held for the men by others in their gang, the Cab told the High Court. This included a recent seizure made up of €134,000 in cash, €1,750,000 of cocaine, €110,00 of heroin and a PM-63 RAK submachine gun. Another gang member recently had €109,000 of the group’s money seized from him.
They have also clashed, in incidents of extreme violence, with their gangland rivals in disputes that have resulted in death.
O’Driscoll was once found holding two big cats – a female jaguar and an African serval – in a garage at his home in Ballyfermot in 1997. He was jailed for three months for animal cruelty after the animals were found in wire pens and with no evidence of food or water save for a half eaten pig’s head in the jaguar’s pen.
Back in August 2017, when the Cab raided the properties in Dublin and Wexford linked to O’Driscoll’s underling Reilly, then 34-year-old Reilly was being investigated by Garda’s Special Crime Task Force over his role in directing rural burglaries.
The Cab came in to try to find his money and other assets and take them from him as the proceeds of crime.
They discovered €60,000 on the day of their raids in Dublin and Wexford as well as jewellery, including a Michael Kors watch. An expensive horse box and horse passport were also found. It was a run-of-the-mill gangland haul for the bureau aside from one thing: financial documents.
These were taken away and analysed and what detectives and forensic accountants uncovered was that Ballyfermot drug dealer and enforcer Reilly was moving vast sums of money through two bank accounts. A stream of that cash was going to his gangland boss O’Driscoll.
What's more, the money was clearly coming from some of the biggest construction companies in the country; all working on community housing projects for Dublin City Council in the Cherry Orchard area of Ballyfermot.
What began as a raid aimed at taking possession of a mobile home and whatever money Reilly had tucked away from burglaries or drug dealing had gone nuclear. This week, more than two years later, the High Court heard evidence that three companies had paid the two criminals just over €553,000.
MDY Construction paid €232,000. Adston Ltd paid €136,200. ABM Design and Build, which is still building housing in Cherry Orchard, paid €185,114.
It's a reflection of the standing the defendants have in this disadvantaged area of Dublin
The court was also told that two officials from Dublin City Council had recommended to construction companies working in Cherry Orchard that they pay fees to O’Driscoll and Reilly – for the fictitious service of “fence maintenance” – to ensure attacks and anti-social behaviour targeting their sites would stop.
In one case, a staff member with one contractor said he was advised by one of the council officials to pay €1,200 in cash per week to Reilly and O’Driscoll and then claim it back from the council, which is exactly what happened. The council official took eight payments from the company in an envelope and passed them on to Reilly, the court was told.
O’Driscoll and Reilly directed the campaign of attacks on the sites and then demanded money for “fence maintenance”. If the cash was paid the attacks stopped. If not, the violence continued.
In one case, when one company declined to pay, a digger was petrol-bombed while a man was working on it. When he jumped off and tried to run to safety he was hit with a brick and broke his ribs. Workers on the site were so fearful they downed tools. The company felt it had no option but to pay O’Driscoll and Reilly the fees demanded or else keep the site closed and face huge financial losses. When they paid the money, the attacks never occurred again.
Other attacks saw stolen cars rammed into the construction sites’ perimeter fencing and sheds petrol-bombed.
When the Cab moved in and froze the accounts of O’Driscoll and Reilly after realising the cash piling up in the bank was protection money, the two men simply opened new accounts and the flow of cash from the companies started again.
Even when Reilly was in prison for a time during the period, the payments to him, and then on to O’Driscoll, continued uninterrupted.
O’Driscoll and Reilly tried to claim in the High Court this week that the money they received was for a genuine fence maintenance service and that was why the cash was so openly lodged in the bank. Ms Justice Carmel Stewart preferred the Cab’s evidence and granted the bureau an order that effectively saw cash, a mobile home and horsebox confiscated from the men.
The council has denied it paid protection money to the two men. Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris were among those expressing concern this week. The council, which has known for three years about concerns at the sites, has promised an investigation, as has Mr Murphy.
Benedict Ó Floinn SC, on behalf of the Cab, told the High Court this week that “the court could ask itself what is going on in this city when not only construction companies but Dublin City Council” was paying men like O’Driscoll and Reilly so that “desperately-needed housing could be built”.
He added of the attacks on the sites that there was “sudden calming of a destructive situation as soon as the defendants became involved”. “This was not happenstance. It’s a reflection of the standing the defendants have in this disadvantaged area of Dublin.”
So who are Derek O’Driscoll and David Reilly?
The leader: Derek O’Driscoll
Born on June 12th, 1973, Derek “Dee Dee” O’Driscoll grew up in Croftwood Park, a local authority housing estate in Ballyfermot. According to the Cab he has 20 previous convictions and is married to Lorraine Stephens, a criminal aid solicitor, and against whom no allegations of wrongdoing are made.
He was described during Cab evidence presented to the High Court as the leader of a drugs gang involved in the “large-scale distribution” of heroin, cocaine and cannabis. His criminal organisation was “hierarchical in structure” and was split into two sections, each working a different area of Ballyfermot.
One of the group’s crime territories is the lower end of Ballyfermot, comprising the housing estates around Kylemore Road, Ballyfermot Road and Sarsfield Road. The other is the Cherry Orchard area comprising the estates behind Cherry Orchard Hospital and around Le Fanu Park.
His first custodial sentence, 12 months for larceny, was imposed at the Children’s Court in 1988. In 1996 he was close by as another man dug up a bag of heroin valued at £200,000 concealed on a railway line in west Dublin. However, because O’Driscoll was not in possession of the drugs he was not charged.
He first came to public prominence back in 1997 when he was one of seven men, including John Gilligan gang members Brian Meehan and Paul Ward, convicted for paying a total £16,100 in bribes to a detective garda. O'Driscoll secretly recorded one of the cash handovers so the footage could be used to pressure the garda at a later date.
In tandem with running his main drugs business, there have been bursts of extreme violence from O’Driscoll that have ensured he is feared by the public in Ballyfermot and the criminal fraternity across Dublin who know him.
In 2004, for example, he and a criminal associate dragged a woman from her car and then stole it by towing it away. Both the woman and her husband were too fearful to make a complaint to gardaí. Also in 2004, when O’Driscoll was refused entry to Club Diva off the Naas Road the door of the club was shot at from a car minutes later.
In 2005 O’Driscoll and an associate were caught as they attempted to abduct a man from Thomas Street, Dublin 8, after they had beaten him. They bundled him into an SUV and drove off only to be pursued by Garda cars and stopped; the badly beaten and disorientated victim was rescued.
Gardaí searched the SUV and found cable ties, a hockey stick, a baseball bat, a rod and sticks. However, the victim would not give incriminating evidence.
In 2006 gardaí received intelligence that O’Driscoll was keeping drugs in an area beside the Seventh Lock at Killeen Road in Ballyfermot. Heroin valued at €50,000 was found but there was insufficient evidence to link O’Driscoll to the haul, and he was not charged.
In September 2009, he was involved in what became known as “the Ballyfermot bloodbath” outside Hennigans Public House at Park West Plaza, during which he bit a rival’s face. The fight involved 30 men from rival drugs gangs. One man was fatally injured though O’Driscoll did not wound the deceased: Briton Jason Lee Martin.
In January 2010, O’Driscoll and Reilly were involved in an altercation with other men while attending a court, including brothers Paul and Kenneth Corbally. The Corballys were members of the group that had fought with O’Driscoll and his associates outside Hennigans Public House at Park West Plaza four months earlier.
Some six months after the row in the court house, the Cab said in its evidence this week, Paul and Kenneth Corbally were shot dead. The murders are unsolved.
In April 2010, O’Driscoll and Reilly were involved in another gang fight, this time in Barnville Park, Ballyfermot, during which Reilly was stabbed but survived. Neither would co-operate with gardaí.
O’Driscoll has now moved out of Ballyfermot and though he has children from a previous relationship who are now in their 20s, he has recently become a father again with his wife; the family home now at Crooksling, Saggart, Co Dublin.
The loyal enforcer: David Reilly
Born in March 20th, 1983, Reilly grew up on Croftwood Grove, Ballyfermot, and currently resides on the same street. Engaged in anti-social behaviour in his late teens, he developed as a criminal over a period of about a decade into a trusted member of O’Driscoll’s crime group. He is O’Driscoll’s enforcer and runs crime in the Cherry Orchard area on his behalf.
It was his role as O’Driscoll’s gangland manager in that area that resulted in his moving in to extort the construction companies building social housing for the council there.
The High Court was told this week that O’Driscoll, through Reilly, controls groups of impressionable young men in Ballyfermot who do his bidding, attacking people violently and at short notice.
Gardaí believe Reilly effectively directed an assault on gardaí in Ballyfermot in 2015. Reilly was known in his early 20s as a low-level criminal who was involved in recreational, rather than for-profit, anti-social behaviour. But he was taken under O’Driscoll’s wing and moved up the food chain.
In some of the robberies, vehicles were stolen from outside victims' homes by gang members towing away the cars, for later sale, using a tow truck
In 2007 he threatened members of the Traveller community with a shotgun in a dispute at a halting site. Over a period of a decade gardaí gleaned information about attacks meted out by Reilly in Ballyfermot over drugs going missing and drug debts. However, the victims never made complaints, a common scenario among those who fall foul of the duo.
Reilly was also involved, on the same side as O’Driscoll, in the gang fight between 30 criminals outside Hennigans Public House at Park West Plaza in September 2009. When gardaí moved in to break up the dispute, Reilly encouraged those present to resist the officers.
However, the High Court was also told that, while he was very vocal and aggressive when being arrested or challenged by gardaí in front of the men he runs, he was known to be more co-operative when he did not have an audience.
In 2012 convicted drug dealer John Wilson (35) was shot dead at a house on Cloverhill Road, Ballyfermot. One man was convicted of the murder. The Cab told the High Court the investigating gardaí also believed they had sufficient evidence to charge Reilly with his role in the killing. However, the Director of Public Prosecutions would not agree to charge him.
He has been a suspect in a number of organised burglaries in the counties surrounding Dublin for which he has selected the target properties. However, other men have been sent to carry out the crimes, with Reilly often close by in a car.
In some of the robberies, vehicles were stolen from outside victims’ homes by gang members towing away the cars, for later sale, using a tow truck.
Reilly has 59 previous convictions and is married to Tara Kershaw, against whom no allegations of wrongdoing are made. He has a number of children from a previous relationship with Celine Hunt, the daughter of Sean Hunt who is described by the Cab as a significant player in crime in the illegal tobacco and fireworks trade.
While his gang leader O’Driscoll has now moved out of Ballyfermot and has outsourced to other men much of the risk involved in his drug-dealing operation, Reilly does not appear to have been quite as astute. Not only was he the public face of the extortion in Cherry Orchard, meeting with contractors and being identified to them by name, but details of his lavish lifestyle were not concealed very well.
The Cab was able to trace evidence of the purchase of 14 vehicles since 2013 registered under his or his wife’s name. Also found was evidence of holidays booked to Ibiza, Amsterdam, Orlando, Las Vegas and Malaga. Some of the locations, including Ibiza and Amsterdam, were visited more than once during the four-year period to May 2017, for which records were available. Some of the bookings were for 10 people.
In September 2015 a sulky racing horse named Ants in his Pants, was bought from Australia and transported to Ireland for an importation fee of almost €20,000. The horse was bought in auction for a record price, and investigations revealed Reilly as co-owner of the animal.
The High Court ruling this week effectively resulted in the confiscation by the Cab of €145,000 in Reilly’s bank accounts and €114,000 in O’Driscoll’s accounts. These are the sums that remained of the €277,000 Reilly received and €275,000 O’Driscoll received from the construction companies they extorted in Cherry Orchard from 2016 to 2018.
Neither man paid any tax on the monies, and the next issue on the horizon for them is a very significant tax bill. On the basis of the evidence thus far, a tax bill is unlikely to faze them.