Undercover garda sat beside brothers in fast-food outlet as they planned huge drug deal
Two feared drug-dealing brothers have been jailed for eight years after a seven-month long garda investigation.
Brian Collopy (43), Kilonan, Ballysimon, Limerick, and his brother Kieran Collopy (40), of St Ita's Street, St Mary's Park, Limerick, were jailed at Limerick Circuit Court yesterday after they were caught bagging heroin worth €40,000 for wholesale supply in a kitchen.
A key development in the operation came when an undercover officer managed to place herself next to the brothers in a fast food outlet as they discussed details of a planned heroin deal with one of criminal George 'The Penguin' Mitchell's drug dealers.
The convictions represent a major success for gardaí.
The Irish Independent can reveal the brothers, who led the Collopy criminal gang, were nabbed with the heroin at their St Mary's Park stronghold in Limerick city on December 15 last.
The heroin was imported to the country after it was sourced from close associates of George Mitchell (66).
The arch-criminal is suspected of sending millions of euro worth of drugs into Ireland every year from his German base.
He has remained an active drugs trafficker for two decades and gardaí linked 'the Penguin' to the seizure of over €3m worth of cannabis from an Irish-registered yacht off the Spanish coast in August 2012.
Mitchell was linked to a spate of gangland hits in the 1990s before he fled to continental Europe.
A major development in the Collopy case came on December 10 last as an arranged meeting between the brothers and a trusted confidant of 'the Penguin' at a fast-food outlet in Portlaoise was closely monitored by gardaí.
Unknown to Brian and Kieran Collopy or the third individual, Limerick gardaí, who had been monitoring and detailing the gang's activities since early 2015, were aware of the meeting in the centre of the town on December 10 last.
An undercover officer managed to place herself next to the brothers and 'the Penguin's' dealer undetected in the restaurant and overheard details of the heroin deal.
Five days later and following the surveillance operation by Limerick's divisional surveillance, drugs, detective and community policing units, gardaí made their move on the Collopy brothers.
Ten ounces of heroin worth just over €37,000 wrapped in pieces of black refuse sacks were found in a kitchen which was accessible from two houses merged together in St Ita's Street, St Mary's Park.
In his evidence to Judge Tom O'Donnell, Det Sgt Alan Cullen said the brothers were disposing of loose heroin that was left over from the bagging operation, when they "ran themselves into a corner" after gardaí forced their way into the address acting on confidential information.
Weighing scales, bags and latex gloves were also found on the kitchen counter covered in a brown dust later confirmed to be heroin.
Kieran Collopy was found in an upstairs bathroom and Brian Collopy in an upstairs bedroom.
A wet brown powder found in a silver saucepan in the bath, and on a spoon on the side of the bath was also confirmed to be heroin. Traces of the drug were also found on a hoody and shoes worn by Kieran Collopy.
So comprehensive was the garda file on them, the brothers pleaded guilty at their first opportunity at a court appearance earlier this year.
Judge Tom O'Donnell said the brothers were not drug mules or couriers but actively involved at the highest level of a commercial enterprise organised for their own benefit.
The judge described heroin as "an absolute scourge on society". Imposing an eight-year jail term, the judge said the Collopy brothers were both "at the top of the drugs pyramid".