Man jailed over 'Dark Net' guns conspiracy that was foiled by FBI
A man was jailed for six years for conspiring to possess an explosive substance, a firearm and ammunition via the 'Dark Net' in an operation successfully foiled by the FBI and gardaí.
Thomas Bates (51), of Abbey Street, Cahir, Co Tipperary, was jailed as Judge Tom Teehan paid tribute to the skilled work of gardaí in working with the FBI in the US to foil the conspiracy.
"This was an operation that required a good deal of planning," Judge Teehan said.
He imposed a seven-year prison sentence, with one year suspended, as he warned that Bates was "a very important part" of the conspiracy while accepting he was not actually the "controlling mind" behind it.
Bates - who was born in the UK to an Irish father - was convicted earlier this year by a jury at the Tipperary Circuit Criminal Court of three charges which involved conspiring to possess a Glock firearm, an explosive substance in the form of two hand grenades, and ammunition. The charges related to dates between October 24 and November 10, 2017.
During the two-week trial, the jury heard evidence from an FBI agent codenamed 'Peter' and gardaí, including members of the Special Detective Unit in Dublin.
The trial heard that the FBI had set up a fake 'shop front' on the Dark Net to see who might attempt to illegally source weapons and explosives.
Gardaí were notified when the FBI realised that one such contact had originated from Ireland.
Following contacts between the FBI, gardaí and an unnamed 'Dark Net' contact, a controlled delivery was arranged to a specified address in Tipperary in 2017.
It involved a Glock pistol, two hand grenades and 30 rounds of ammunition. Detective Superintendent Michael Gibbons said all of the items involved in the delivery were decommissioned.
The unnamed Irish 'Dark Net' contact paid with $800 (€720) in Bitcoin.
The items were delivered to an address in Abbey Street in Cahir and were signed for by Thomas Bates at 12.53pm on November 10, 2017.
They were not addressed to him but to a "Tim Bates". Gardaí said there was no such person.
Judge Teehan was told that gardaí now accept that Bates was not the "controlling mind" in the operation.
His defence counsel, Kathleen Leader SC, said he was not the prime mover, was not a man of wealth and was effectively a minor figure in what had happened.
However, Bates had a number of previous convictions in Ireland, the UK and Spain, having been jailed in the latter for a drugs offence in 1994.
While born in Liverpool, he had moved back to Ireland to look after his elderly Tipperary-born father.