A man described as a "major cog" in a drugs distribution network in Cork has been jailed for eight years after he was caught by gardaí with almost €800,000 worth of cannabis.
Michael O'Leary (45) from The Orchard, Mahon, and Kent Road, Ballyphehane, Co Cork pleaded guilty to possessing cannabis for sale or supply at Kent Railway Station in Glanmire Road and Kent Road in Ballyphehane in Cork on June 21st, 2019.
A second man, Eddie Murphy (50) of Hazel Road in Togher pleaded guilty to possessing cannabis for sale or supply at Kent Railway Station on Glanmire Road on the same date and he was jailed for five years.
Det Sgt Michael O'Halloran of the Cork City Divisional Drugs Squad told Cork Circuit Criminal Court that gardaí identified O'Leary as a person of interest in relation to drug distribution in Cork and set up surveillance on him.
They saw O'Leary and Murphy drive in a Toyota Yaris car to a van parked in the railway carpark on Glanmire Road where they saw them drive the van out from a wall and retrieve a bag, then lock it up and reverse it back against the wall.
Gardaí arrested the two men and found cannabis in the Yaris amounting to €110,000 while they found a further €600,000 worth of drugs in the van and a further €90,000 worth of drugs in O’Leary’s house in Ballyphehane.
O’Leary admitted when he was interviewed by gardaí that before this seizure, quantities of cannabis estimated at 60kg to 80kg had previously passed through his hands. He had no previous drug convictions, the court heard.
O’Leary’s barrister, Donal O’Sullivan BL, said his client injured his hand in 2017 and could not work. He had been using cannabis and began to use it more and his involvement in the drug trade escalated as he paid for his own drugs.
O’Leary was making about €600 a week from his involvement in the drugs trade at the time he was caught, said Mr O’Sullivan as he pleaded for leniency, pointing out his client had pleaded guilty at an earlier opportunity.
Murphy's barrister, Emmet Boyle BL, put it to Det Sgt O'Halloran that his client wasn't at the same level of involvement in the trade and Det Sgt O'Halloran agreed that Murphy was not involved at the same level as O'Leary.
Judge Sean Ó Donnabháin said it was a case where the gardaí had identified O’Leary as a suspect and knew what they were looking for when they put surveillance on him and watched him go to Kent Railway Station.
However, the surveillance operation bore fruit in a way that they probably never expected in terms of the amount of drugs they seized which were very significant, amounting to almost €800,000 worth of cannabis, he said.
Judge Ó Donnabháin accepted that O’Leary was at a different level in the operation to Murphy, in that, even though the van was registered in someone else’s name, it was O’Leary who had the key to it and control over the vehicle.
He said that it was clear that O’Leary was involved in the distribution and supply of drugs from his preparing and organising of the van and he was clearly a significant cog in the wheel of drug distribution in Cork.
“He (O’Leary) was in business and it was business at a significant level. He was a major cog in the wheel. He went into a trade that is full of risks and he has to take the penalty,” said Judge Ó Donnabháin as he jailed him for eight years.
He said that he believed from Det Sgt O’Halloran’s evidence that Murphy was at a different level of culpability and that as a consequence, he did not believe that Murphy merited the same sentence as O’Leary.
“I certainly don’t think he was the main man even though he knew what he was doing,” he said as sentenced Murphy to seven years but suspended the final two years, reflecting his lesser role in the entire operation.