By Jessica Magee
A man has been sentenced to just over five years in jail after gardaí found €280,000 worth of cocaine in hidden compartments in two cars.
The concealments could only be accessed by a button under the steering wheel when the engine was running and both headlights and fog were lights turned on, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard today.
Laimonas Baltrusis (31), with an address at Peck’s Lane, Castleknock, Dublin 15, admitted unlawfully possessing cocaine at Manorfield Dale, Clonee, Dublin 15 and The Oaks, Porterstown Road, Dublin 15 on September 19 and 20, 2020.
He further pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a Grand Power semi-automatic pistol and ammunition at the second address on September 20, 2020.
Garda Ian Sheedy told John Moher BL, prosecuting, that the accused had been in bed when gardaí arrived at his rented house with a warrant.
Baltrusis cooperated with gardaí and pointed them to a kitchen shelf where they recovered 22 grammes of cocaine, valued at over €1,500.
He also told gardaí about sums of cash in the house totalling €3,250, which he said were his own savings.
The accused gave gardaí the keys to a Mercedes car parked outside and told them that there were further keys in the Mercedes to two Volkswagon Passat cars.
Gardaí found that the first Volkswagon had a flat battery, but they charged it up and discovered a compartment between the back seat and the boot which contained just short of three kilograms of cocaine, worth over €209,000.
Gardaí searched the second Passat and seized a further one kilogram of cocaine in a similar concealment, along with a Grand Power semi-automatic pistol containing ten rounds of ammunition.
The total street value of the drugs seized was approximately €280,000, the court heard.
Several encrypted mobile phones were also recovered, with secure apps of the types used by organised crime gangs that can’t be accessed by gardaí, Gda Sheedy said.
Baltrusis has five previous minor convictions, all for road traffic offences.
Gda Sheedy agreed with Michael Bowman SC, defending, that the gun wasn’t chambered and there was no bullet in the breech.
Mr Bowman said his client had come to Ireland from Lithuania with his childhood sweetheart and their son, now aged eight.
He said Baltrusis became involved in YouthReach in Blanchardstown and that contacts he made there introduced him to drugs.
The court heard Baltrusis was socially isolated at the time and his drug use quickly spun out of control, escalating from the use of Xanax to cocaine.
He moved with his family to Mallow, County Cork in an attempt at a fresh start, but became more heavily involved in drug use there and acquired a debt.
Mr Bowman said his client’s partner became concerned about the welfare of their son because of the drug use and fled to Dublin and then Lithuania with their son.
Baltrusis was under threat from people who didn’t want their money back but simply wanted to use him, Mr Bowman said.
The court heard Baltrusis would get instructions on the encrypted phone to facilitate the movement of firearms or drugs to third parties but that he did himself did not profit from the operation.
“He was undoubtedly a cog at the lowest level. There’s no suggestion that he ever laid hands or eyes on the firearm or drugs,” said Mr Bowman, who argued that it had been a case of “passive possession”.
Garda Sheedy agreed that Baltrusis was not living a high life and had no trappings of wealth.
The court heard Baltrusis has successfully completed a residential programme at Coolmine Rehabilitation Centre, is drug-free and attends Narcotics Anonymous where he was described as “honest and caring” towards group members.
References were presented to court from his sister and his employer at Synergy Services where he has worked since September 2021 and has advanced to the position of team leader.
The court heard Baltrusis is involved in his local football club and was described as polite and respectful.
Baltrusis wrote a letter of apology to the court and told gardaí he had lost his way in life, adding: “if I could take away my mistakes, I would.”
Judge Martin Nolan said Baltrusis had no relevant criminal record and a good work history, and was well capable of reform and having a useful life.
But he sentenced Baltrusis to five years and three months in prison, saying that he had created these problems for himself by becoming involved in the drugs trade.