A man who took part in an attempt to extort €25,000 from a “completely blameless” family has been jailed for 18 months.
Dylan Cronin (20) and another man went to the family's home at night, claimed one of the children was involved in drugs that had gone missing and demanded the family give them €25,000.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that this claim was entirely false and had been concocted in order to attempt to gain the money. The blackmailers returned on two further occasions, during which property was damaged and notes were left demanding the money.
Cronin, with an address at Grange Abbey Crescent, Donaghmede, Dublin, pleaded guilty to three counts of demanding money with menace at an address in Malahide, Co Dublin, on September 5, September 8 and September 11, 2020. He has no previous convictions.
Passing sentence, Judge Patricia Ryan said this put an “enormous stress” on the family, not to mention fear. She said the offences occurred at night time at a person's home, were planned and “veiled threats” were made.
Judge Ryan said that while Cronin has said he was coerced, he was to receive two or three thousand euro for being involved in this offending behaviour. She said he allowed himself to be involved and allowed his car to be used.
“It did not happen once, it did not happen twice, it happened three times,” she said.
The judge said that given the serious nature of the charge, it deserved a custodial sentence. She said the court was taking “a very serious attitude” to this offending behaviour.
Judge Ryan sentenced Cronin to three years imprisonment, but suspended the final 18 months of the sentence on strict conditions, including that he follow all directions of the Probation Service for 18 months post release.
During the sentencing hearing, Garda Joseph Robinson told Kieran Kelly BL, prosecuting, that on the first date in question, Cronin and another man came to the home of the family with their faces covered by scarves.
Gda Robinson said the other man spoke to the couple living there and told them that one of their children was involved in €50,000 of drugs going missing, along with three other people.
The other man told the couple that the other three families had agreed to pay €25,000 and that their child had a debt of the remaining €25,000. He said they did not want to threaten the family, but that they would have to pay this.
The men were told that the family did not have the money and they left. The court heard it is accepted that the child in question had no involvement whatsoever with drugs and this was a story concocted by the men to try to get money.
Gda Robinson said that on the second date in question, the man who had been threatened got up in the morning to find the window of his car was broken. He found a handwritten note in his porch area which featured a phone number and said to ring it when he had the money.
Three days later he found another note left on the windscreen of his car. This note said that there was “no way out” of this and it was “only going to get worse”.
The man had installed CCTV cameras at his house and gardaí were able to identify the accused man's car as the number plate was not concealed.
In interview with gardaí, Cronin said he was persuaded by someone into getting involved and that his life and the lives of his family were in danger if he did not do it. He said he was to be paid two or three thousand euro.
Cronin told gardaí he accepted he was one of the two men who spoke to the family on the first occasion. He said he drove to the house on both subsequent occasions, but did not get out of his car.