Gang member had booked €8,485 holiday to Orlando before he was caught moving over €600,000 in crime cash, court hears
7th December 2021
A “mid-to-high” level member of an international crime gang had booked an €8,485 summer holiday to Orlando before he was caught moving over €600,000 in crime cash, the Special Criminal Court has heard.
A search of his home uncovered an encrypted Aquarius phone along with fake designer bags, luxury watches and two signal blockers, the court also heard.
Thomas Rooney (52) of Betaghstown, Bettystown, Co Meath, had pleaded guilty in July of this year to possessing €289,770 and £65,025 in crime cash in a blue Nike holdall at the Spar car park Donore Road, Drogheda on May 11, 2020.
Today at the three-judge court, he pleaded guilty to two further charges of possessing cash, which were also the proceeds of crime. All three charges are offences under Section 7 of the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing) Act 2010.
Rooney pleaded guilty to possessing €254,840 in a black holdall bag also at Donore Road and to possessing €7,650 at North Road, Drogheda, both on May 11, 2020.
In July, a “trusted, high level” member of the same gang caught with more than €350,000 of the cash was jailed for seven years by the non-jury court.
Jason Reed (40) of Maelduin, Dunshaughlin, Co Meath, pleaded guilty to possession of the cash in the blue Nike bag on the same date and location but also pleaded guilty to possessing crime cash at his home address after gardaí found €32,330 and £441 there, despite Reed having no source of income.
In May of this year, Rooney’s then partner Catherine Dawson (44), also of Betaghstown and with whom he has two children, was given a fully suspended sentence by the Special Criminal Court for her role in moving the gang’s money.
Dawson, a carer who used a company car as a cover for transporting the money, admitted to possession of the contents of the Nike bag at the car park. She was sentenced to three years and nine months in prison, but it was suspended on condition she be of good behaviour for five years.
Detective Sergeant Adrian Mulligan of the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau told Garret Baker BL, prosecuting, that Reed had been placed under garda surveillance and was the main focus of their operation on May 11, 2020.
He said the surveillance began when Reed left his Dunshaughlin home in a Volkswagen Passat on May 11 and he was observed pulling into the car park on the Donore Road at 5.55pm. Det Sgt Mulligan said Reed was observed getting out of his car and hugging and chatting to Rooney who was driving a black Mercedes.
He said Reed returned to his car and then threw an envelope into the open window of the driver’s side of the Mercedes. Reed was then observed taking out a blue holdall and placing this into a third car – the branded Hyundai driven by Dawson.
Dawson was stopped by Det Gda Mulligan who discovered both holdalls in the car. The witness said that an unidentified male had placed the black holdall in Dawson’s car.
The witness said that Rooney had interacted with this male at the car park at around 5.20pm when the black holdall was placed in Dawson’s car. He then texted her to say ‘one more’, to which she replied ‘K’. He then sent her a ‘thumbs up’ emoji to which she responded with a ‘wink’ emoji.
Det Gda Mulligan said that the three vehicles of Reed, Rooney and Dawson were then all approached by gardaí. The witness said that when Detective Garda Mary Moore arrested Rooney, she observed him counting some of the €7,650 from the envelope on his lap.
A search warrant was executed on Rooney’s home and an encrypted Aquarius phone was found, along with six fake designer bags valued at €5,450, €1,970 in cash, 10 watches valued at €9,200 and two signal blockers.
Also found in the home was a holiday receipt for Orlando, Florida, for July 2020, just two months away, worth €8,485.
Det Gda Mulligan told Mr Baker that Rooney made admissions over a series of interviews and maintained that he had been approached “to move money from A to B”.
Rooney told gardaí that Covid-19 had put his chauffeur business “down the drain” and that it was “stupid” to get his partner involved, though he told gardaí she “had nothing to do with it”.
Rooney told gardaí he was to get €1,200 for moving the money and that he was in fear of his life.
Det Gda Mulligan said it was their belief that Dawson’s company car would make it easier for her not to be stopped during lockdown.
Mr Baker asked where Rooney was on the scale of the operation and was told by Det Gda Mulligan that he believed Rooney to be a “mid-to-high” ranking member, who organised the location and oversaw the transaction. The witness said the encrypted phone was one used by high-ranking members of organised crime groups.
Rooney’s barrister, John D Fitzgerald SC, handed in medical reports describing Rooney’s pulmonary problems. Mr Fitzgerald said Rooney had a 30-year work history, was a father-of-four – two of whom he had with Dawson – and his business “ground to a halt” in March 2020 due to Covid-19.
Counsel said there was a “very significant disparity” between the amount of money Rooney was to actually receive and the money he was moving.
Mr Fitzgerald said Rooney engaged with gardaí and was of assistance to their investigation. He said Rooney came from a good background and had a good family history, adding that due to his condition causing shortness of breath it took Rooney 90 minutes to get ready each morning.
Presiding judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt said he could not see a non-custodial sentence in the case.
While there was no objection by gardaí to bail, he remanded Rooney in custody to January 14, when he will be sentenced.
“It’s better to get it started now,” said Mr Justice Hunt.