Saturday 24 March 2018

Pair jailed for online 'dark net' drug deals

Neil Mannion: ‘brains of the drug dealing operation’. Photo: Courtpix
Neil Mannion: ‘brains of the drug dealing operation’. Photo: Courtpix

Aoife Nic Ardghail and Conor Gallagher

A bitcoin trader and a film technician have been jailed for running an online global operation described as "a new era in drug dealing".

Neil Mannion (34) and Richard O'Connor (34) were charged with possessing drugs worth €143,000 following a Garda raid on a business premises in south Dublin in October 2014.

Detective Sergeant Brian Roberts compared the operation of selling drugs on the "dark net" to eBay or Amazon, saying: "It's a new phenomenon that's growing and ultimately the modern era of drug dealing."

Mannion, of Mount Drummond Avenue, Harold's Cross, Dublin and O'Connor, of Clonskeagh Road, Clonskeagh, Dublin, both pleaded guilty to possession of LSD, amphetamine and cannabis resin with intent to sell or supply at Bank House Business Centre, South Circular Road on November 5, 2014. Neither man has any previous convictions.

Judge Martin Nolan imposed a six-and-a-half year term on Mannion, who he called "the brains of the operation". He said that, unlike most people before the court who were drug carriers or mules, Mannion owned and sold the drugs.

He imposed a three-year sentence on O'Connor, who he said was acting under Mannion's instructions in return for a weekly wage. Judge Nolan said it was an unusual case because the drugs were sold online using the "deep net" to countries around the world.

"It may seem that committing crimes on the internet is somewhat easier than selling drugs on the street," he said. "It gives the impression of invulnerability and the impression that the crime is less serious, but it's not. These two sold drugs to third parties for profit."

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard former Eircom worker Mannion had set up the online drug-dealing business and that O'Connor was paid up to €600 a week to post the packages to customers overseas.

Sean Guerin SC, defending O'Connor, said he had a drug dependency at the time but was now clean with a "bright future".

Irish Independent

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