Friday 20 April 2018

Customers and prostitutes were secretly taped over the internet

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

HUNDREDS of brothel customers are living in fear after it emerged secret cameras were hidden in power sockets and smoke alarms at two busy Irish sex shops.

The brothels -- at Grafton Street and John Street in Cork city centre -- had been fitted with covert cameras, which had a direct internet video link to the home of convicted brothel keeper, Anthony 'Tony' Linnane.

The covert cameras were installed in such a manner that it was virtually impossible for unsuspecting brothel patrons not to be caught on camera.

Linnane, 54, of Scartbarry, Watergrasshill, Co Cork, was jailed for 15 months last week after pleading guilty to brothel keeping before Cork Circuit Criminal Court.

He is now in the process of completing a €1.5m settlement with the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab). The amount is comprised of a €1.043m cash settlement and the handing over to the State of two city-centre properties.

The Sunday Independent has since learned that while gardai intend to destroy all material confiscated as part of their brothel raids, they have been contacted by several ex-customers anxious as to whether other recordings may be in existence.

Men who used prostitute services at the two brothels are now terrified as to the consequences of any such recordings falling into the wrong hands.

Linnane -- a father of five and former Limerick chimneysweep -- was targeted by gardai and Cab as part of 'Operation Boulder', a major crackdown on the illegal sex trade. Gardai were shocked at the vast scale of earnings enjoyed by Linnane from the two brothels -- with estimated earnings in one week alone of €23,000.

Garda surveillance confirmed that the two brothels boasted 264 customers in the space of just six days -- generating between them an estimated weekly turnover of €46,000, half of which was paid to the prostitutes involved. The brothels offered a range of sex acts ranging from €100 for 'hand relief', €120 for oral sex and up to €250 for a special service called 'domination'.

The vast earnings allowed Linnane and his partner, Caroline O'Leary (39), to enjoy a lavish jet-setting lifestyle.

O'Leary -- who was convicted of brothel keeping after a week-long trial -- was handed a two-year suspended prison sentence. The mother of two of Linnane's children had spent a month on remand at Limerick Prison.

Judge Sean O Donnabhain said that in light of the young age of the couple's children, it would be "unnecessarily harsh" to send both parents to prison.

Julienne Gibson, 41, of Springvale, Old Youghal Road, Cork, worked for Linnane in helping run the brothels on a day-to-day basis and received an 18-month suspended prison sentence.

She would check on the prostitutes on duty and provide fresh towels for their customers.

Gibson lives in a council flat and is a mother of seven, the youngest of whom is just seven months.

However, unlike Linnane and O'Leary, Gibson enjoyed none of the vast profits generated by the brothels.

The court heard that when Linnane and O'Leary's home was raided by gardai, a staggering €110,000 in cash was seized -- some of which had been stuffed into envelopes. Linnane will get €60,000 back, while he will forfeit €50,000 to the State.

Linnane and O'Leary's social activities were described as "a Celtic Tiger lifestyle" -- and ranged from luxury overseas holidays to a fleet of plush cars, including a Mercedes convertible and a customised jeep.

The couple's Scartbarry home was developed as a ranch-style bungalow -- with imposing piers and an interior described by one neighbour as "a show home".

The couple shopped for designer clothes, jewellery, and expensive perfumes and they dined out on a weekly basis at some of Ireland's most expensive restaurants.

Linnane and O'Leary also enjoyed lavish holidays in Spain, the Bahamas and the US. Both were in Spain when the brothel charges were initially levelled against them, but they voluntarily returned to Ireland to answer the prosecutions.

The couple also spent a considerable amount of time over recent years at a luxury villa outside Fort Lauderdale in Florida.

Judge O Donnabhain warned that their lavish lifestyle was entirely funded by the exploitation of women and men -- and said that Linnane was solely motivated by profit.

Linnane's prostitutes were all recruited on a voluntary basis -- and none were the subject of human trafficking or coercion.

The women split the profits from their sex trade with Linnane on a 50/50 basis.

They were recruited after women interested in working as prostitutes were told to ring a special mobile phone number and then ask for 'Jade'.

Gardai believe that O'Leary posed as 'Jade' -- and screened the women for recruitment as prostitutes.

Gardai confirmed that there was no question of drugs being available in the brothels -- and Linnane had in fact voluntarily reported three individuals who had asked about child sex at his brothels to gardai .

Gardai also confirmed that Linnane was of material assistance in these three paedophile investigations.

But Judge O Donnabhain said that Linnane had, in fact, profited from the misery of others.

"He (Linnane) exploited the women working in the brothels and the men using them in the most miserable of conditions to get the maximum profits from them," he explained.

"You (Linnane) were the main man in all of this -- you were only in this for the profits to be made," the judge added.

Sunday Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News