Women pleads guilty to money laundering but says she didn't know where cash came from

Lisa O'Hara (32) and her former partner James Walsh (37), both of Wheatfield Avenue, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 pleaded guilty on Monday
Women pleads guilty to money laundering but says she didn't know where cash came from

Eoin Reynolds

A woman who has pleaded guilty to multiple counts of laundering more than €100,000 that was the proceeds of crime, did not know where the money came from, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

Lisa O'Hara (32) and her former partner James Walsh (37), both of Wheatfield Avenue, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 pleaded guilty on Monday to multiple counts of handling or possessing cash while knowing, believing or being reckless as to whether the cash was the proceeds of crime.

The court heard that they used €60,000 to put a deposit on a house and paid a builder €62,000 in cash for work he carried out on their home.

Detective Sergeant Paul Kane told Fiona Murphy SC for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) that O'Hara did not know where the cash came from, but gardaí believe she was reckless in not asking more questions of her then partner.

He agreed with Anne-Marie Lawlor SC, for O'Hara, that she has a good work record, a respectable job, is deeply remorseful and is unlikely to come before the courts again.

O'Hara has since split with Walsh and now has "nothing whatsoever to do with her co-accused”, he said.

Sole carer

Ms Lawlor told the court that her client is the sole carer for the child she had with Walsh and asked the court to consider a sentence that would allow her to remain in her community.

In total Walsh pleaded guilty to 12 counts of possessing, handling, using, converting or transferring cash while knowing, believing or being reckless whether the cash was the proceeds of criminal conduct contrary to Section 7 of the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Act.

The total cash involved was €136,861 and was either found during the search of his home or was lodged in various bank accounts between 2015 and 2017.

O'Hara pleaded guilty to nine counts totalling €119,126 for offences between January 1, 2015 and early 2017. Some of the cash was lodged in an account under O'Hara's name.

Det Garda Kane said Walsh first came to gardaí attention following a raid on January 24th, 2017 on premises in Greenogue Industrial Estate where gardí investigating organised crime seized a sub-machine gun, rifles, semi-automatic pistols and a significant amount of ammunition.

Senior Kinahan Cartel member Declan Brady (53), who is known as "Mr Nobody", had been tasked with supervising the weapons arsenal. Gardaí had observed Walsh leaving the premises while the search was being carried out, while Brady was found inside.

Search warrant

Walsh was arrested close to the scene and later that month gardaí searched his home using a search warrant and seized financial documents relating to Walsh and O'Hara. At the house gardaí discovered €19,000 in cash and receipts for building work totalling €62,000.

When Walsh was interviewed at Lucan Garda Station, he told gardaí that the money at the house belonged to him and said, “Lisa had no idea it was there.”

Regarding the building work, he said he gave the money to O'Hara and told her to pay the bill. Regarding any money that went through the bank accounts, he said, “I gave Lisa the cash.”

Det Garda Kane agreed with defence counsel David Staunton BL that Walsh was not of interest to gardaí prior to the raid in January 2017 and since then gardaí have no concerns about him and there are no ongoing investigations related to him.

In his plea to the court Mr Staunton said Walsh is serving an eight-year sentence for firearms offences arising from the raid in January 2017.

Longer sentence

He has been in custody since that date and Mr Staunton accepted that had the sentencing court known about the money laundering at the time, his client might have received a longer sentence.

The detective agreed with Ms Lawlor that O'Hara was reckless and “didn't ask the questions she might have, but she was not aware of the precise activities of Mr Walsh.”

She never had any involvement in the “underlying criminality” that was the source of the cash and “is not someone gardaí have ever had any interest in.”

In her plea to the court, Ms Lawlor said her client accepts she was reckless. She was in a relationship with Walsh who was involved in criminality that O'Hara had nothing to do with, counsel said. “She will have this stain on her record forever."

She said the damage to her reputation is “a real and significant punishment" and her plea of guilty was valuable in that it saved the court from what could have been a lengthy trial.

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