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Cocaine dealer caught using ice-cream van as front for drugs business

CourtsBy David Raleigh
FILE PHOTO
FILE PHOTO

A mobile ice-cream van, which sold ice lollies and cones to children around parks and sports venues, was being used as a cover for a major drugs distribution business, Limerick circuit criminal court heard today.

The owner of the van, Paul Collopy, (41), started out in life transporting coal on a horse and cart but after venturing into the ice-cream business, he discovered it was the perfect way to hide and sell drugs.

Collopy pleaded guilty at Limerick circuit court to one count of possessing cocaine for sale or supply at his home, Glenbrook, Bloodmill Road, Ballysimon, on November 25, 2014.

Detective Garda David McGrath, Limerick Drugs Squad, told the court that when gardai searched the van they discovered over €6,000 worth of cocaine.

One batch was found in a lunchbox concealed under the bonnet near the engine, while the other was discovered in "a money bag" near a window in the van where ice-cream would be served to unsuspecting members of the public.

The bag also contained two "tick lists" in which the names of people, "who owed money for drugs", appeared. The drugs invoice showed €45,000 worth of cocaine had been sold.

When gardai approached Collopy, who had been standing under the bonnet of the van, he slammed it shut and was seen dropping a spoon and a digital weighing scales.

Gardai also found €5,000 in cash in Collopy's house.

Collopy, whose family have no criminal connections, had amassed 70 convictions prior to his arrest, the court heard.

Collopy was convicted in December 2007 of selling €17,000 worth of cocaine, and sentenced to five years in jail. He was released in 2011. 

However, in October 2014, he was caught in Ennis with heroin worth €28,000 for sale or supply and was sentenced to six years with the final two years suspended last November.

Det Garda McGrath said Collopy was a "chronic cocaine and crack cocaine addict".

"My own opinion and the opinion of the divisional drugs squad would be that he is a drugs wholesaler rather than a street dealer.

"He would be giving the drugs to others to break down for street dealing," he added.

The court heard Collopy, a father of three, was "selling drugs to break even".

"He had a €200-a-day drug habit," Det Gda McGrath added.

Judge Tom O'Donnell remanded Collopy in custody for sentencing on December 16.

State prosecutor John O'Sullivan said Collopy comes from "a good family with no criminal connections".

"He started sniffing glue aged ten. He started using other drugs in his teens. He was working from the age of twelve drawing coal on a horse and cart and later in his own pick-up truck."

Detective Garda McGrath said Collopy was selling ice cream from a fleet of vans in public parks and sports venues around the city.

"He was effectively caught red handed," the detective said.

Mr O'Sullivan said Collopy was attending "music and cooking classes" while in prison on remand.