A would-be cannabis dealer planned to take the money and invest it in bitcoin, but was caught before any of his plans got started.
Edmund O’Flaherty (47) was ordered to perform 240 hours of community service in lieu of a three year prison sentence this week.
He had previously pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis with the intent to sell or supply it under Section 15A of the Misuse of Drugs Act last July 20.
Detective Garda Barry Nugent gave evidence that on June 6 of 2016, Gardaí searched O’Flaherty’s then address at Ballyveane, Clonbur under warrant.
He wasn’t home when they entered the premises, and Garda Nugent said that after gaining entry through a rear window, they found a grow house set up in a downstairs bedroom, complete with lamps and other paraphernalia.
In this room there were 36 cannabis plants, with a potential value of €27,200, which had already been harvested several times.
Another room had been set up to dry out just over two kilograms of harvested cannabis, which had a street value of €43,200.
A small amount of cannabis was also found in the kitchen, along with two weighing scales, and €10,000 in cash.
When interviewed by Gardaí, O’Flaherty said that this was a loan from his mother, and Garda Nugent told the court that it was not believed to be the profit of drug dealing.
O’Flaherty, who arrived home while Gardaí were still searching the house, said that he had planned to sell cannabis, but hadn’t figured out the details yet. In the meantime, the drugs kept building up in his house.
He told them that he intended to make €20,000 in profit, and then invest that in bitcoin in order to double his money, with the goal of building a house for his son.
Garda Nugent said that the state accepted that he hadn’t started dealing yet, describing him as a person of “no means” who was living with his mother.
Defence Barrister Conal McCarty BL said that his client cooperated fully with the Gardaí, and entered a plea at the earliest opportunity.
At the time, O’Flaherty believed that cannabis would be legalised in Ireland soon, and wanted to get ahead of the game, the defence claimed.
His client has been working as a handyman, as well as helping out on the family farm. Living with his mother has brought stability to his life, the defence said.
A report from the Probation Services stated that he is at low risk of reoffending, and was deemed suitable for community service.
Mr McCarthy said that there were “ample grounds” for the judge to depart from the presumed mandatory minimum sentence of ten years.
Under Section 15A of the Misuse of Drugs Act, covering offences where the value of the drugs is €13,000 or more, there is a presumed mandatory ten year sentence, unless the judge believes there is good reason not to impose it.
Judge McCabe said that this was a “business venture” with a significant quantity of drugs. The paraphernalia found at the property could be seen as evidence that he was already dealing, he added, but the state hadn’t taken that position
“The defendant admitted that he intended to act as a drug dealer,” Judge McCabe said, but noted that he was not a person of means, and that he was satisfied he could depart from the presumed mandatory sentence.
He set the headline sentence at four and half years in prison, reduced to three years after considering the mitigating factors, and ordered O’Flaherty to do community service or face prison.
The defence asked that the court order that the money found at the house be returned. Judge McCabe noted that the state hadn’t made an application to confiscate it, but ordered the money given back “to his mother” specifically.
A nolle prosequi was entered on the other charges contained in the indictment.