Bungling 'Home Alone'-style robbers, who flooded student accommodation after stealing copper piping, were caught after gardaí found a receipt in one of their names in a rented getaway van.
One member of the gang, Noel Ferry (52), appeared before Letterkenny Circuit Court in Co Donegal, charged with burglary and criminal damage of the building.
Ferry and two other men entered the disused student village at Port Road in Letterkenny and ripped out the boilers and piping. They flooded the entire building. Between the theft and the damage caused to the property, an estimate of €55,000 was put on the cost of the robbery.
Gardaí told the court they received a call that a man had been seen acting suspiciously at the student accommodation at Port Road at around 10.45pm on February 22, 2012.
When they arrived, they were told that a security man had come across a rigid Mercedes truck on the site and that a man had been seen fleeing from the truck. They entered the building and found extensive water damage and copper cylinders and piping missing from various apartments.
When they searched the truck, they found a receipt for the rental of the truck in the name of Noel Ferry.
Following his arrest, Ferry admitted his part in the robbery and two other men were later arrested in connection with the robbery.
Ferry's barrister, John Berry, told the court his client was under financial stress and that this plan had been hatched in the pub over a few beers. Since this incident, Ferry, of Letterkenny, has no convictions and was working in construction in London and supporting his family back in Donegal.
He added that his client had €10,000 in court to offer as compensation for his part in the robbery. Mr Berry added that his client should be treated in the same manner as the other two accused in the case, who had previously been given community service orders by Judge John O'Hagan.
Brendan Dunleavy (28), of Ballymacool, Letterkenny, and Darren Doherty (31), of Kirkstown, Letterkenny, both received 240 hours community service in June 2017 for their part in the raid.
Judge John Aylmer agreed and ordered Ferry to complete 240 hours of community service in lieu of three and-a-half years in prison. He also ordered that the €10,000 be paid to the injured party.