An Athlone resident caught in the middle of moving over €34,000 of cocaine by gardai has received a fully suspended prison term.
Detective Garda Padraic Rowan told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that on November 22, 2018, he stopped Conor Costello (24) as he was driving out of an estate at Cloonmore Park in Tallaght, west Dublin.
Costello gave his address as one in Co Roscommon and told Dt Gda Rowan that he was in Tallaght to buy a second-hand mobile phone he had seen for sale online.
Dt Rowan asked him to see the handset and noticed Costello had a picture of himself as the screensaver on the phone and became suspicious of his story. He and his colleague began a search of the vehicle and a Tommy Hilfiger bag containing a large amount of white powder was found in the passenger footwell of the car.
Later analysis of the contents showed it to be cocaine with an estimated street value of €34,104, Simon Matthews BL, prosecuting, told the court.
Costello was arrested and told gardai that he had built up a drug debt in Athlone and was offered to have €300 taken off the debt if he collected the package from Dublin and delivered it to someone in Athlone.
He said he had no idea the drugs would be worth so much and said “it was only a small package”.
Costello of Wolfe Tone Terrace, Athlone, Co Westmeath, pleaded guilty to possession of drugs for sale or supply.
Dt Gda Rowan agreed with Michael Bowman SC, defending, that the people his client owed money to were capable of extreme violence over relatively small amounts of money.
He agreed that Costello was in a vulnerable position and was used an expendable cog in the drug dealing machine.
He accepted that Costello was working in Dunne's Stores at the time, but his hours had been cut and he was paying rent and didn't want to return to living in the family home. Dt Gda Rowan agreed there were difficulties in the family home.
Mr Bowman said his client made a stupid decision at the time to agree to transport the drugs.
Judge Greally said that she was taking into consideration Costello's difficult circumstances at the time, his lack of any other offending, his youth and his early plea of guilty.
She noted that the detection of this offence led to a sea change in his life and he is now training as an apprentice electrician. She noted there were a number of extremely positive character references provided on Costello's behalf.
Finally, she noted that the Probation Service has assessed him as being at a low risk of reoffending. She suspended a prison term of two and a half years on condition he keep the peace and be of good behaviour