Former league of Ireland footballer and two others jailed for moving €200,00 of criminal cash 

by Gazette Reporter
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By Eimear Dodd

A former League of Ireland footballer and two other men have been jailed after they moved just under €200,000 in criminal cash.

Edward Fitzpatrick (39) of Ballyfermot Road, Ballyfermot, Dublin 10, pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering at the same address on February 12, 2021.

Jonathon Barton (42) with an address at Wheatfield Avenue, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 pleaded guilty to a count of money laundering at Circle K, Kilshane Cross, Finglas on February 12, 2021.

Gary O’Neill (40) of  Churchfields, Ashbourne, Co. Meath pleaded guilty to two counts of money laundering at Circle K, Kilshane Cross, Finglas on February 12, 2021. The former professional footballer has no previous convictions.

At a previous Dublin Circuit Criminal Court sentence hearing,Garda Detective John Paul Flanagan told Fiona Crawford BL, prosecuting, that a surveillance operation of Barton began after gardaí received a confidential tip-off.

They observed a van driven by Barton pull up outside a property, later identified as Fitzpatrick’s residence, at 3.25pm on the day in question.  Barton parked the van in the driveway, then got out. Fitzpatrick emerged from the house and both men entered the property.

Around 20 minutes later, Barton was seen leaving the house carrying a blue shopping bag, which appeared heavy. He then got into the van while Fitzpatrick returned to his home.

Gardai followed Barton who later pulled into the Circle K service station at Kilshane Cross. They saw him interacting with the driver of a parked silver car. Barton was seen handing a bag to the driver, later identified as O’Neill.

Barton and O’Neill were both arrested. The blue shopping bag was found in the boot of O’Neill’s car. It contained €199,505 cash in three packages.  A further €2,250 was recovered from O’Neill’s car.

Gardai recovered a vacuum packing machine and a mobile from Fitzpatrick’s home and a phone from Barton following searches. An analysis of the phones showed that Barton and Fitzpatrick had been in contact three times on the day in the question.

The three accused were arrested. During interview, Barton and Fitzpatrick both admitted their roles in the operation.

This weekMs Justice Melanie Greally took into account each of the men’s roles in the offending. She also noted their remorse, guilty pleas and that they are all family men.

She took into account the steps each had taken towards rehabilitation and testimonials handed into court for each of the men.

Ms Justice Greally imposed a four year sentence on Barton, a 42-month sentence on Fitzpatrick and a 30-month sentence on O’Neill. She suspended the final year of their sentences for each man.

Fitzpatrick has five previous convictions for minor road traffic offences. Barton has 28 previous convictions, primarily for minor road traffic offences.

Det Flanagan agreed with defence counsel for Barton that his client’s previous conviction was over ten years ago. His client told gardaí that his role was to move cash in order to repay a drugs debt.

Barton was also dealing with a cocaine addiction at the time. Det Flanagan accepted that Barton had been under pressure due to drugs debt and had no financial interest in the money.

Det Flanagan agreed with Keith Spencer BL, defending Fitzpatrick, that his client had not been the subject of the confidential information received by gardaí. Fitzpatrick was addicted to cocaine and became involved in criminality due to a €10,000 drugs debt.

Mr Spencer said his client had been afraid for himself and his family. Fitzpatrick admitted to gardaí that his role was to package the cash for transport. His previous convictions date back ten years.

Det Flanagan agreed with defence counsel for O’Neill that the three accused were not known to each other before the day in question. O’Neill acted as a courier on the day in question. He was sent forward to the Circuit Court on signed pleas from the District Court.

Counsel for the three accused handed in references on their behalf. Each man has a long work history and have not come to recent garda attention. The three accused had family members in court to support them. 

Defence counsel for Barton said his client is a father of one and has taken steps to address his addiction issues.

Mr Spencer said Fitzpatrick had been using cocaine “as a crutch” following the death of a friend, but is making efforts to deal with his addiction. Father of four Fitzpatrick has been treated for depression and is also a volunteer for a local sports club, the court heard.

Counsel for O’Neill said his client apologises for his behaviour and was at a “low ebb” at the time in question. In 2013, he was treated for cancer, which went well but he experienced mental health issues which re-surfaced around the time of this incident.

O’Neill had some financial difficulties at the time, and was approached by a childhood acquaintance with the chance to make a modest sum of money. His actions were “out of character” for O’Neill and proved to be a “huge error in judgement”.

O’Neill is a father-of-two and his arrest had been a source of shame for his family, defence counsel said.

O’Neill worked as a professional footballer for 15 years in the League of Ireland and was an active campaigner for social inclusion within the sport. He is a volunteer with the FAI’s youth services.

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