By Brion Hoban
A father-of-two who was twice caught with thousands of euro in cash which were the proceeds of criminal conduct has been jailed for three years.
Aaron Maguire (32) had an initial debt of approximately €15,000 and threats had been made against the safety of his family when he agreed to collect the money in order to pay off his debt, only to be caught by gardaí.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that while on bail for this offence, he was again caught in possession of thousands of euro in cash after his debt was increased to €30,000 following his losing the cash during the initial arrest.
The court heard that the accused’s mother eventually paid off the debt by drawing down her pension early, after her son was assaulted in July 2020.
Maguire, of Grange View Walk, Clondalkin, pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine for sale or supply and possession of the proceeds of criminal conduct at locations in Clondalkin on November 20, 2019.
He also came forward on a signed plea of guilty for possession of the proceeds of criminal conduct at Blackhall Street, Dublin City centre, on December 21, 2019.
He has one previous conviction for a minor road traffic offence.
Garda Mark O’Neil told John Berry BL, prosecuting, that on the date in November, gardaí set up a surveillance operation in Clondalkin on foot of intelligence and observed two men inside a parked car.
Gda O’Neil said that when gardaí approached the car, one of the men fled the scene with a package containing cocaine with a value of €10,857.
This man has since received a sentence of three years imprisonment which was fully suspended.
Maguire was the driver of the car inside of which gardaí discovered an envelope containing €5,550 in cash. A further €15,365 in cash was found during a search of the accused man’s home address.
In interview with gardaí, Maguire said he had been instructed to go to the area, to leave his car unlocked and that when he returned, a package would have been placed inside.
Maguire told gardaí he had gotten into a “predicament” and owed approximately €15,000 to people who had threatened to kill his family. He said he had done similar things in the past and that the sum of cash in his house was accumulated from various sums left in his car.
He told gardaí he did not know the person who rang him, that the number would be different every time and he would be told to go somewhere in order to get “a few quid” taken from his debt.
Maguire told gardaí the other man had not known what was going on and had only joined him in the car moments before gardaí arrived. The accused was charged and released on bail.
Gda O’Neil agreed with Justine McQuade BL, defending, that his client had not been on the radar of gardaí and had fully co-operated. He agreed Maguire was in fear for his family’s safety.
The garda said it was his belief that the accused man was collecting money from drugs transactions.
Detective Garda Gavin O’Gara told Mr Berry that on the date in December, gardaí were in receipt of intelligence that a handover of money was due to take place involving Maguire.
Det Gda O’Gara said gardaí tracked Maguire and his sister drive in two separate cars to Blackhall Street in the city centre, where they observed Maguire then drive away from the area and return minutes later.
Upon returning, Maguire got out of his car holding a black bag and put it in his sister’s car. A total of €26,350 in cash was seized from the both the bag and in loose cash in the vehicle.
In interview with gardaí, Maguire apologised repeatedly for having involved his sister and said she believed they were collecting Christmas presents. The court heard a decision was made by the DPP not to prosecute the accused man’s sister.
Det Gda O’Gara agreed with Mr McQuade that it was possible the money seized during the previous incident was “simply transferred” into the debt his client already owed.
Judge Elma Sheahan sentenced Maguire to two-and-a-half years imprisonment for both offences of money laundering and ordered that they run consecutive to each other.
She then suspended the final two years of the sentence on strict conditions for an effective operative sentence of five years imprisonment with the final two years suspended.
Giving evidence before the court, Maguire said he began using “an awful lot more” cannabis to cope with stress and was offered an opportunity to make extra money by dealing a small amount of cannabis.
The accused man told the court that he lost a quantity of cannabis and was then told he owed the money for it. He said the debt was originally approximately €15,000.
Maguire said the debt was increased to €30,000 following his first arrest and that he was beaten “quite badly” in July 2020. He said his mother drew down money early off her pension in order to pay off his debt and that he has since been focusing on his family and his career.
He told the court he had been engaging with drug rehabilitation and had supplied clean urines up until as recently as the previous week.
The court heard Maguire insisted on paying his mother back and has set up a standing order of payments into her bank account.
Mr McQuade said his client has not come to garda attention since the second incident. He said his client is now married and has two children.
Counsel said that regarding his client’s initial motivation, one easy route might have been to claim that he was an addict with a drug debt, but his client had not done so. He asked the court to weigh the issue of his client’s motivation with his honesty.
Mr McQuade asked the court not to impose an immediate custodial sentence.
Before passing sentence, Judge Sheahan said that both the accused’s wife and his mother were “impressive people” and that she was cognisant of the “terrible situation” they find themselves in owing to the actions of someone they love.
Judge Sheahan said this offending “wreaks havoc” not just in society at large, but also to those closest to the accused.
She said the court accepts Maguire’s remorse as being genuine and notes that he has made efforts to reform. She said she notes that he was acting under duress and that there was a threat made against the safety of his family.
Judge Sheahan said the court unfortunately finds that the “custody threshold” has been crossed.