Tuesday 12 December 2017

Playwright acted as 'spokesperson' during extortion operation, court told

James Gantley
James Gantley

Aoife Nic Ardghail

A Dublin playwright was asked to join a criminal operation to extort money from a business because he was good at voice characterisations, a court has heard.

Lawyers for James Gantley (62) said he had been asked to be “spokesperson” in demanding money from DX Ireland, a delivery and tracking services firm, because of his experience in theatre.

Shane Costelloe SC, defending, submitted to Judge Martin Nolan that his client told gardai he had hoped to make “a few bob” from the operation, but came away with nothing.

Gantley, of  Sundrive Road, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to demanding money with menaces from DX staff between October 11 and November 11, 2011.

He has 10 previous convictions, including robbery and aggravated burglary, but hasn’t been on the garda radar since 1993.

Garda Colleen Doherty revealed that a DX van containing bags of legal documents had been stolen on October 5, 2011.

She said Gantley phoned DX five days later and claimed the people responsible for stealing the documents, which included NAMA files, would burn them if the firm didn’t hand over money.

Gantley, who called himself “Frank” on the phone, said the thieves wanted €1,000 for each bag which would total €100,000.

He called two more DX staff members and Managing Director Kevin Galligan on different dates to demand money in return for the stolen documents.

Judge Martin Nolan imposed a five year sentence, suspended in full and said that it was “a close run thing” but it would be unjust to impose an immediate custodial sentence.

Judge Nolan said “it baffles me what people think up and for the life of me I would never have thought demanding money through menaces of legal documents would be an avenue to enrichment.”

Gda Doherty told Kerida Naidoo BL, prosecuting, that three of the stolen document bags were posted to DX when Mr Galligan asked Gantley for proof that his associates had them.

Mr Galligan recorded his phone call, in which Gantley tried to haggle the amount of money demanded between €100,000 and €50,000. Gardai used this recorded phone call to eventually trace Gantley and arrest him weeks later.

Gda Doherty agreed with Mr Costelloe that the stolen mail was recovered in Harold’s Cross in February 2012 during a separate investigation.

Mr Costelloe submitted to Judge Nolan that his client had written “positively notorious” plays in the 90s.

He said Gantley, who suffers from ill health and is sole carer for his wife, described his offending behaviour as “stupid”.

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