A MAN who was previously jailed in Florida for sending guns to Ireland has been convicted of handling almost €100,000 worth of stolen jewellery.
Conor Claxton (41) was one of four men convicted of handling the stolen jewellery days after it had been taken in an armed raid on a Belfast jewellers.
Claxton, of Kilmore Close, Belfast, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dishonestly receiving €99,690 worth of stolen jewellery at Grattan Crescent, Inchicore, Dublin on July 11, 2011.
Judge Mary Ellen Ring sentenced Claxton to three and half years with the last 18 months suspended. A group of supporters from Belfast clapped when he was sentenced.
Detective Garda Michael Doherty told Anne Rowland BL, prosecuting, that two men had robbed a jewellers in Belfast at knifepoint. Claxton later travelled to Dublin and was trailed by gardai following a tip-off.
Claxton and Liam O'Neill (58), of Cross Guns Quay, Phibsboro, Dublin, were seen trying to sell the items to a jeweller in Palmerstown but the jeweller decided not to buy them.
The prospective buyer returned the jewellery to the men after meeting them outside the Marble Arch pub. Gardai moved in and stopped the car minutes later in Inchicore. They found the jewellery and arrested the four men in the car.
In June 2000, Claxton was jailed for four years and eight months in the US for purchasing firearms and posting them to Ireland. He was released in September 2003 and deported. The father of five also has convictions for road traffic offences in the North.
Pieter LeVert BL, defending, said Claxton was the owner of two bars in Belfast and got into financial difficulties. He then borrowed money from "people he should not have" and later received significant threats.
The court heard Claxton was a full-time carer for his parents and worked with a number of charities, including setting up a monastery in Uganda.
At a previous sitting in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, co-accused Francis Taggart (22) of Albert Street, Belfast, pleaded guilty to possession of a stolen gold pocket watch, while O'Neill and Gavin Hughes (29), of Springfield Park, Belfast, both pleaded guilty to handling stolen jewellery on the same occasion.
Judge Martin Nolan sentenced O'Neill and Hughes to two years in prison. He sentenced Taggart to two and half years which he suspended in full on strict conditions.