Extortion victim still living in fear as blackmailers get 8 -10 years
THREE men convicted of extorting a total of €67,000 from a man three years ago were jailed for terms of eight to 10 years yesterday.
Father-of-two Gerard Stokes (31) of Park 1, Muirhevnamor, Dundalk; father-of-four David McDonagh, (33), of Reask Court, Navan; and father-of-five James McDonagh (46), of Grange Drive, Muirhevnamor, Dundalk; had been found guilty by a jury at Dundalk Circuit Court earlier this month of demanding money with menaces from Niall Hearty on July 7, 2009, at Stokes' home, and on the following day at Muirhevnamor.
Det Garda Adrian Donoghue told a sentence hearing before Judge Ray Fullam in Dublin yesterday that Mr Hearty was still living in fear and was considering emigrating with his family because of the incident.
The court heard Mr Hearty, who was awarded €159,000 in compensation after a car accident, had gone to Stokes' house after Stokes had rung him to discuss the possibility of buying or exchanging a vehicle.
They met the other two men in the kitchen where a shotgun was produced. The three demanded money and threatened Mr Hearty and his family.
Following two visits to his bank, Mr Hearty handed over €57,000 to the men.
The next day all three called to him and said it would cost him another €10,000 to call off a hitman who was on his way from Dublin to kill him. He gave a bank draft for that amount to Stokes.
Mr Hearty told gardai the men had threatened to shoot him and his family, and said they did not care if he got the gardai or the IRA, as they would shoot them as well.
In a victim impact statement read to the court by prosecuting counsel Kevin Seagrave, Mr Hearty said his life had been turned upside down since that July day.
"I have no comfort in my life around Dundalk as I am afraid to walk around the town for fear of meeting these men and their families. I'm looking over my shoulder all the time for every car or van that passes me," he said.
Barristers for all three defendants said their clients apologised for the stress they had caused Mr Hearty and his family. Judge Fullam said the offences that had been planned and premeditated were "abominably evil crimes committed by people who thought they were untouchable".
He sentenced Gerard Stokes and James McDonagh to eight years in jail each and imposed a 10-year term on David McDonagh who had been involved in a previous robbery in Dundalk. He also directed that €18,960 found in Stokes' home be given to Mr Hearty.