A Dublin man has been sentenced to five years in prison for his role in a money laundering operation after he was caught driving a van with a sealed compartment containing over €320,000 in cash.
Dylan Byrne (27) of St Mark’s Avenue, Clondalkin, pleaded guilty to possessing the proceeds of crime at Holywell Commercial Centre, Swords on February 4th, 2022.
He further pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possessing €4,000 of cocaine for sale or supply, which also found in the van and to possessing a small amount of cocaine at his home which was seized during a search the following day.
Passing sentence on Thursday Judge Martin Nolan described Byrne as a “vital cog” in transporting money for organised crime.
He said there was evidence of Byrne’s “comprehensive involvement” in organised crime, describing this as an aggravating factor.
“I have to infer that he was receiving some benefit for the help he was extending,” said the judge.
The court heard that a mobile phone was seized showing communications on the Signal messaging app between Byrne and another person nominated by gardai as being a member of an organised crime gang.
Garda Gavin Curran of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation said if these messages were printed out, they would amount to 473 pages in length.
Judge Nolan said Byrne had substantial mitigation including his guilty plea and admissions, his cooperation with gardaí, lack of any relevant record, long work history and good family support.
Garda Gavin Curran told John Berry BL, prosecuting, that he was part of an operation targeting a particular organised criminal group and that Byrne was one of those being watched.
On the day in question, gardaí followed Byrne who was driving a Renault van to Holywell and saw him meet with a co-accused who arrived in a taxi. A parcel was passed back and forth between them before gardaí arrested both men.
The co-accused's taxi was found to contain two vacuum-packed blocks of cash amounting to a total of €53,000.
The man's house was also searched, and a ledger was seized containing 40 pages of drugs transactions totalling well over a €1 million. The co-accused was previously handed a three-year prison sentence.
Gardaí searched Byrne’s van and found the interior laid out with plywood sheeting with a fresh silicone seal between the sheeting and the bulkhead. Gardaí prised this open and found a sealed compartment capable of being opened by a hydraulic device, which contained €320,675 cash and cocaine worth €4,000.
Byrne’s phone was analysed and revealed numerous voice-notes, messages and pictures concerning drugs and cash transactions. Garda analysts prepared charts showing regular patterns of communication between Byrne and members of what officers believed to be an organised crime gang.
Byrne told gardaí he had been asked to “do a favour for a childhood friend” and that this person was “someone you don’t say no to”.
Byrne has one previous minor conviction for parking on a double yellow line. Gda Curran agreed with Kathleen Noctor SC, defending, that it was “not unusual” for someone like Byrne to not name the other people involved in the transactions.
The prosecuting garda added that Byrne had given a “full and honest account” of his movements on the night.
Ms Noctor said Byrne had given gardaí the access code to his phone. She noted that Byrne did not use the ‘burn’ function on the Signal app which would automatically delete messages.
The court heard that Byrne was not on the garda radar before this investigation and had been working for a scaffolding company for eight years. Prior to this, Byrne worked for JD Sports for two years and did a year-long course in sports coaching.
Testimonials from his employers were handed into court, together with letters from his primary and secondary schools, and numerous letters from his family and friends.
The court heard that Byrne played footbball for the Liffey Valley Grangers and helped to coach youth teams there. He also did voluntary work for Crosscare Youth Work and Ronanstown Youth Service.
Ms Noctor said her client became addicted to cocaine from the age of 16 but has since linked in with Fusion Drug Treatment in Ballyfermot and has urine analysis to confirm his drug-free status.
Byrne told his defence barrister he had accrued a drug debt of €3,000 during lockdown, however, counsel for the State said Byrne had told gardaí he had no debts from drugs or gambling.
Judge Nolan said valuable information had been gleaned because Byrne had given gardaí access to his phone, which helped gardaí with their investigation.