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"Brains” behind Dark Net drug dealing scheme has sentence appeal dismissed

Neil Mannion
Neil Mannion

The “brains” behind a dark net drug dealing operation, described as “not the normal type of criminal”, has lost an appeal against sentence.

Neil Mannion, (35), of Mount Drummond Avenue, Harold's Cross, Dublin pleaded guilty to possession of €143,000 worth of LSD, amphetamine and cannabis resin for sale or supply at Bank House Business Centre, South Circular Road on November 5, 2014.

He was sentenced to six-and-a-half years imprisonment at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court by Judge Martin Nolan.

Dismissing Mannion's appeal against sentence today/yesterday(THURSDAY), Mr Justice George Birmingham said gardaí had information relating to a particular computer IP address and the sale and supply of drugs on the “dark-net”.

Surveillance was placed on Mannion and he was seen to visit the premises in question.

A search of the premises revealed a weighing scale, various Visa electron cards, a vacuum packing machine, brown envelopes, whie envelopes, labels for postage and foil wrapping.

Mannion accepted that his role was as vendor of drugs. This meant people would put inorders with the “Hulkster” - his online username – and he would package and send the items.

Orders were dispatched to the UK, USA, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Mexico, France, Holland, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Japan, Sweden, Ukraine, Thailand, Denmark, Spain, Malaysia, Israel, Norway, Argentine, Canada, Lithuania, Finland, Belgium as well as Ireland.

When interviewed, Mannion was cooperative in terms of providing passwords and explaining the mechanics of how the system worked.

When asked was it a successful “business”, he said reasonably. “When I did it first I didn't expect to have hundreds of customers or get so much attention. Things just flew a bit out of control.”.

The lead garda said Mannion was pleasant to deal with and realised he made a “very big mistake”.

Detective Sergeant Brian Roberts said Mannion was “not the normal type of criminal that we deal with at the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, if I can put it that way”.

Mannion had a long history of using various types of drugs, the court was told. He came from a “very respectable” background, had worked for Eircom for a number of years, left employment in 2013 and brought a number of testimonials to court.

Counsel for Mannion, Michael Bowman SC, submitted that the disparity between Mannion's sentence and his co-accused could not be justified and the sentence was excessive.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the roles of Mannion and his co-accused were very different and significantly different sentences was proper and necessary.

Mannion appeared to be “the brains of the operation” while the co-accused “followed his instructions”, in the words of the Circuit Court judge.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court could find no error in principle and accordingly dismissed the appeal.