One of two Brazilian men living in Ballymahon told gardai he feared for himself after becoming a “rat” and giving information about why a submachine gun and shotgun were found in the car he was driving in Co Offaly.
A sentencing hearing at Tullamore Circuit Court was told that Hugo Henrique Rodrigues, 23, of Apartment 4, Inny Court, Ballymahon, informed gardai that he and two others intended to threaten someone and shoot at their house but a murder was not planned.
Judge Keenan Johnson was told Mr Rodrigues is getting special protection in prison after he told gardai he would be a “rat” and he feared people with “connections”.
Mr Rodrigues sat in a separate part of the courtroom in Tullamore from the other two defendants.
Mr Rodrigues, along with Jefferson Dos Santos, 35, with the same address in Ballymahon, and Ildomar Canrar Da Silva, 29, whose address could not be established by gardai, were in a car stopped at River Street, Clara shortly after midnight on May 27 last.
Gardai found a 9mm submachine gun and 17 rounds of ammunition, along with a sawn off shotgun and cartridges.
They also found phones in the vehicle, one of which had been used for a Google maps search of an address in Tullamore.
Detective Sergeant Caroline Lyng told the court Mr Rodrigues was the driver of the car and all three were wearing plastic gloves.
Gardai established the car had come from Dublin, passing through the toll plaza at Kilcock a few hours earlier and then stopping at the Applegreen in Enfield for fuel, which was paid for by Mr Da Silva.
Examination of the guns by a garda ballistics expert indicated both were in working order though the submachine gun was in poor condition and its serial number had been deliberately erased.
Det Sgt Lyng said Mr Rodrigues told the gardai he lived in Ballymahon with his partner.
Earlier in the day, before being intercepted by the gardai in Clara, Mr Rodrigues went to the Cliffs of Moher with his girlfriend and Mr
Dos Santos and returned to Ballymahon that night.
He said he had been aware for a week that a “job” had been discussed and detailed how he and Mr Dos Santos went to meet Mr Da Silva at a car.
He put on gloves and a mask and drove to Kilbeggan, getting lost twice on their way to where they were to pick up the guns.
He said the plan was not to murder someone but was to threaten them and shoot at their house and then burn the car.
Det Sgt Lyng said Mr Da Silva had been in Ireland for five years and had evaded a deportation order since July 2019.
He had 24 previous convictions and various prison sentences of between three and four months, including a number for theft and one for drink-driving.
Judge Johnson was told Mr Dos Santos had no previous convictions in Ireland and had a flight booked to return to Brazil the day after the Clara incident.
All three men had entered guilty pleas on November 17 to possession of the guns and ammunition and breaches of Covid-19 travel restrictions.
They have been in custody since their arrest.
Garnet Orange, SC, prosecuting, said the maximum sentence for the firearms offences was 14 years and the minimum was five.
The DPP had indicated the offending was at the upper range of offending for potential sentencing.
Niall Flynn, BL, for Mr Rodrigues (instructed by Fiona Baxter, Baxter Mimnagh Solicitors, Longford), outlined his client's fears for himself resulting from the information he had given the gardai.
He had no previous convictions and had left Brazil at the age of nine and worked as a barman in Spain before coming to Ireland. His mother lived in Switzerland.
Mr Flynn said Mr Rodrigues had been a participant in the crime but was not the organiser.
Mr Dos Santos read a letter of apology to the judge and the people of Ireland and said he had been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He said his family in Brazil was suffering because of his absence and he wished to help his wife, who had lost her job because of Covid, and his father, who was ill and could not work.
His defence counsel Padraig Dwyer, SC, said the prison governor's report was very good and the man intended returning to Brazil when he had completed his sentence.
Seamus Clarke, SC, for Mr Da Silva, said the accused's brother and girlfriend were shocked by his behaviour and up to 2018 most of his convictions were for road traffic matters in Co Meath where he worked in a meat factory.
Adjourning sentencing to a sitting of Mullingar Circuit Court on December 21, Judge Johnson said the charges were very serious and he would have to take time to consider the matter.