Would You Believe, RTE's reformed lag returned to drug dealing
A CANNABIS trafficker, who was portrayed in an RTE documentary as a reformed man who had turned his back on crime, worked alongside one of the biggest drug importers in the country after he was released from prison, the Sunday Independent has learned.
Pat Scanlon, 53, was last week jailed for 15 years after he was found guilty – by a unanimous verdict – of importing cannabis into the country from Spain.
Sources this weekend revealed that Scanlon was working for a major drugs importer who has been aligned to Limerick's gangs for almost a decade.
In 2006, Scanlon was portrayed in the RTE series Would You Believe as a man who had reformed himself after becoming involved in drug dealing because of his gambling and drug addictions and having failed at running nightclubs and restaurants. The programme, which was broadcast in 2006, was entitled 'Second Chance'.
RTE documented how Scanlon spent his first period of imprisonment of seven years, imposed in 2000, raising money for charity through long-distance running. He completed 628 laps of the Limerick Prison yard in December 2001 to raise money for the Chernobyl Children's Charity.
He received parole in 2005 to take part in a charity marathon for which the programme reported that he raised €33,000 for four children's charities.
The programme detailed how Scanlon had once been a well-known restaurateur and nightclub owner "but had lost everything as a result of a crippling gambling addiction and drug and drink problems".
He had "been living life at a frantic pace for over a decade", the programme said, but added that by the time he was finally sentenced in 2001 "Pat finally had to stop running from his problems and face up to the mess his life was in".
However, last week Scanlon's "second chance" turn-around was exposed as a lie after it emerged that he went full circle back to being a drug trafficker.
During RTE's documentary, Adi Roche of the Chernobyl Children's Project described Scanlon as a "truly inspirational figure".
The disgraced former English Conservative politician and novelist, Jeffrey Archer, was also apparently impressed by Scanlon and sent a cheque for £50 (€58).
However, Scanlon was sentenced last Wednesday to 15 years after being convicted at Limerick Circuit Court for importing 4.8kg of cannabis, estimated in value at €80,000, from Spain in August last year.
Prior to sentencing, the court heard of his previous seven-year sentence for importing 130kg of cannabis worth an estimated €1.8m from Spain in 1999.
He was arrested while unloading those drugs from a van in Limerick.
The court heard that in August last year gardai and customs intercepted a package containing 4kg of cannabis at Shannon Airport after it had arrived from Malaga in Spain.
They carried out a "controlled delivery" posing as DHL staff to a house in Pallaskenry, Limerick.
Prosecuting counsel said Scanlon had "duped" the innocent house owner into believing the package contained "bits and bobs" he had bought on eBay for a restaurant venture in Askeaton, Co Limerick. Gardai gave evidence that Scanlon had monitored the delivery from a car parked nearby.
He was convicted after a unanimous jury verdict.
Prior to sentencing on Wednesday, the court heard that Scanlon had returned to the restaurant business after his earlier release from prison and was one of the caterers for Michael Flatley and Niamh O'Brien's wedding reception in Fermoy, Co Cork in November 2006.
He later moved to Jersey but returned to Limerick in June last year.
Scanlon continued to be addicted to gambling and told multiple lies to gardai after his arrest, the court heard.
His trial lasted three weeks.
Judge Carroll Moran said he had no option but to impose a "mandatory" sentence of at least 10 years as this was Scanlon's second such offence.
Counsel for Scanlon was given leave to appeal the sentence, one of the longest imposed for cannabis importation since John Gilligan was given 20 years, later reduced to 12, for importing tons of the drugs.