Man jailed for two years for running ‘a chop shop’ in Cork
Gerard Holland cut up cars and tractors stolen by gang with paramilitary links
Gerard Holland, 65, of Tir na Nean, Lislevane near Bandon pictured at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Cork Courts
A 65-year-old man has been jailed for two years for running “a chop shop”. Gerard Holland cut up cars and tractors stolen in Border counties by a criminal gang with links to paramilitaries in South Armagh and resold them as legitimate vehicles.
He had pleaded guilty to 11 sample counts from a total of 42 on the indictment that he had stolen engines and car and tractor parts worth almost €600,000 at his property at Tír na Nean, Lislevane near Bandon, Co Cork between September 2010 and October 2016.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said the level of criminality involved was “phenomenal” after hearing how Holland had operated the chop shop at his home.
He said the crimes were not victimless and both insurance companies and individuals had suffered as a consequence of what Holland did.
“Aggravating factors are that he was knowingly involved, deliberately involved. He took part in stripping down engines grinding off of numbers. His culpability is significant. He was at all stages knowingly involved with a criminal organisation in or about Crossmaglen and he was doing it for profit.”
Pleading for leniency, defence counsel, Siobhan Lankford SC said her client had co-operated with gardaí and entered an early plea. This saved the State a lengthy and complex trial which would have involved some 95 witnesses including 25 from outside the state having to testify, she said.
The judge said the head line sentence for such an offence was six years, but taking into account Holland’s guilty plea which spared the State a complex trial, the fact it was his first offence and the fact he had some health issues, he suspended four years leaving him with two years to serve in jail.
Det Garda David Barrett had told Cork Circuit Criminal Court how as part of an investigation into the theft of high value cars and tractors from properties in the Republic and Northern Ireland, gardaí carried out a search of Holland’s property where he operated a business, Gerard Holland Tractors Sales.
Gardaí established that Holland was operating a dismantling business or chop shop where he was selling engines and other car parts from 27 stolen cars, some 17 of which were stolen in the Republic and 10 of which were stolen in Northern Ireland between 2010 and 2016.
Det Garda Barrett said that cars, which included 10 BMWs, seven Audis and six Volkswagens, had been stolen mainly in “creeper type burglaries”. This involved the criminal gang breaking into occupied houses under the cover of darkness in both the Republic and Northern Ireland and stealing the car keys.
He said the gang stealing the cars and tractors was based in Crossmaglen in South Armagh. Its members were well known to both the gardaí and the PSNI and had historic links with paramilitaries. Some 60 PSNI personnel had been involved in one search in South Armagh with helicopter support.
He said gardaí carried out a search of Holland’s premises at Lislevane on September 30th, 2016 and found a number of engines from stolen cars. A second search on October 20th, 2016 yielded a number of car body parts which matched the engines found in the first search.
Det Garda Eugene O’Sullivan of the Garda Stolen Vehicle Investigation Unit said they also found that Holland had cut up and sold engines and other parts from some 10 tractors, six of which had been stolen in Northern Ireland and four of which had been stolen from Co Monaghan over the same period.
He said gardaí found the engines had had their serial numbers ground down and erased. They were stamped with new serial numbers and Holland then submitted the new serial numbers to the Revenue Commissioners to get new registration plates and he sold them on as second hand imports from Europe.
Det Garda O’Sullivan said the gang would drive the stolen tractors down from Northern Ireland to west Cork overnight via the old N8, avoiding tolls and arriving early in the morning at Holland’s premises at Lislevane.
Det Garda Barrett said the insurance companies had valued the 17 cars stolen in the Republic at €246,850 while cars stolen in Northern Ireland were valued at £128, 605. Tractors stolen in Northern Ireland were valued at £184,282 with the combined value of all the stolen vehicles totalling €579,004.