Tuesday 16 July 2019

Ice cream van used as cover for major drug dealing business, court hears

Paul Collopy (inset) operated an Ice cream van service. Pic Brendan Gleeson
Paul Collopy (inset) operated an Ice cream van service. Pic Brendan Gleeson

David Raleigh

A mobile ice cream van that sold ice-lollies and cones to children around parks and sports venues was being used as a cover for a major drugs distribution business, a court has heard.

The owner of the van, 41-year-old Paul Collopy, started out in life transporting coal on a horse and cart but later ventured into the ice cream business and discovered it was the perfect way to hide and sell drugs.

Detective Garda David McGrath of the Limerick Drugs Squad, told the Limerick circuit criminal court on Thursday that when gardai searched the van they discovered over €6,000 worth of cocaine.

One batch was found in a lunchbox concealed under the bonnet near the engine, while the other was discovered in "a money bag" near a window in the van where ice-cream would be served to unsuspecting members of the public.

The bag also contained two "tick lists" in which the names of people "who owed money for drugs" appeared. The drugs invoice showed €45,000 worth of cocaine had been sold.

When gardai approached Collopy, who had been standing under the bonnet of the van, he slammed it shut and was seen dropping a spoon and a digital weighing scales.

Gardai also found €5,000 in cash in Collopy's house at Glenbrook, Bloodmill Road, Ballysimon.

Collopy, whose family have no criminal connections, had amassed 70 convictions prior to his arrest, the court heard.

Collopy was convicted in December 2007 of selling €17,000 worth of cocaine, and sentenced to five years in jail.

He was released in 2011 but he was caught in Ennis in December 2014 with heroin worth €28,000 for sale or supply and was sentenced to six years with the final two year suspended last November.

Det Garda McGrath said Collopy was a "chronic cocaine and crack cocaine addict".

"My own opinion and the opinion of the divisional drugs squad would be that he is a drugs wholesaler rather than a street dealer. He would be giving the drugs to others to break down for street dealing," he added.

The court heard Collopy, a father of three, was "selling drugs to break even". "He had a €200 a day drug habit," Det Gda McGrath added.

Judge Tom O'Donnell remanded Collopy in custody for sentencing on December 16.

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