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DNA Court finds All-Ireland medal winner was in border gang stealing ATMs with diggers

Daniel O'Callaghan who won three All-Ireland medals with Crossmaglen Rangers

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Daniel O'Callaghan

Daniel O'Callaghan

Daniel O'Callaghan

The Special Criminal Court has found that a GAA club All-Ireland winner was involved with a cross-border gang that stole hundreds of thousands of Euro by using stolen diggers to pull ATMs from walls.

Daniel O'Callaghan (31), who won three All-Ireland medals with Crossmaglen Rangers, was found guilty of all 16 counts against him relating to an ATM theft and an attempted ATM theft in Cavan and Monaghan in 2019. Ms Justice Tara Burns at the three-judge, non-jury court found that O'Callaghan was "intimately involved" in the planning of the thefts, which followed a "modus operandi" that was seen in several other thefts that the court said were carried out by the same gang earlier in 2019 and in late 2018.

The final attempt to steal an ATM was thwarted by gardai who were watching as the gang drove a digger up beside an ATM in Virginia Co Cavan in the early hours on August 14, 2019. Gardai saw a stolen Toyota Landcruiser in convoy with the digger. The Landcruiser was pulling a trailer into which the gang intended to place the ATM before taking it to a premises at Tullypole, Moynalty Co Meath where the money would be taken from it. Gardai would later discover more than e438,000 hidden in various locations and buried in the ground at Tullypole.

When gardai rammed the Landcruiser, O'Callaghan and another man ran from the Landcruiser and a third man ran from the digger. All three jumped over a wall into a field but before they got away a garda from the National Surveillance Unit (NSU) and another garda from the Emergency Response Unit identified O'Callaghan. Ms Justice Burns said the court accepted the identification evidence of the two gardai. She said the identification by the NSU officer was particularly reliable because he had familiarised himself with O'Callaghan over many years as part of his duties in preventing and detecting cross-border crime. The officer was just a few feet away from O'Callaghan with a clear view when he made the identification, Ms Justice Burns said.

O'Callaghan's DNA was also found in a sauna in a nearby shed after the owner told gardai he suspected an intruder had interfered with the insulation in the shed's attic. Ms Justice Burns said the DNA evidence provided support for the identification evidence of the two gardai.

Ms Justice Burns said the method used by the gang required careful preparation. They carried out the thefts early in the morning when there were few people or gardai around. In each case they used a digger to dig the machine out of the wall in an "efficient and skilled manner". The gang members were also forensically aware, she said, and occasionally set fire to the vehicles they had used, used "burner" mobile phones and crossed the border with Northern Ireland to escape the attention of gardai.

She said the court accepted the evidence of retired Detective Superintendent Alan Cunningham who gave evidence, based on his professional experience and expertise, of the existence of the criminal organisation.

O'Callaghan (31) of Monog Road, Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, had pleaded not guilty to offences under Section 72 and 73 of the Criminal Justice Act.

He has been found guilty of the attempted theft of an ATM at the Riverfront Hotel, Main Street, Virginia, Co Cavan on August 14, 2019, for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a criminal organisation.

He is also guilty of the theft of an ATM on Main Street, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, on April 3, 2019 for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a criminal organisation.

He was found guilty of two charges of participating or contributing to the possession of cash totalling €125,930 intending to facilitate the commission by a criminal organisation or any of its members of a serious offence at Tullypole, Moynalty, Co Meath, on August 14 and 20, 2019.

He is guilty of possessing €298,000 at the same location on August 14, 2019, along with a charge of possessing a petrol can intending to use it or cause or permit another to use it to damage a stolen Toyota Landcruiser with false plates in Virginia, also on August 14.

In addition, he is guilty of possessing a stolen Toyota Landcruiser, possession of a stolen 14-tonne digger and appropriating a digger without the consent of its owner in Virginia.

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Finally, he is convicted of being in possession of bolt-cutters with the intent of stealing a 14-tonne digger, with the attempted dishonest appropriation of the ATM at the Riverfront in Virginia and with being in possession of a stolen flatbed trailer all on August 14 of 2019. He was also convicted of counts relating to criminal damage at the ATM in Castleblayney and attempted criminal damage in Virginia.

Ms Justice Burns said that the court is satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that O'Callaghan was "at a very minimum" acting in association with a criminal organisation. It is clear, she said, that he was involved in planning the thefts and that he was associated with the premises at Tullypole where large amounts of cash were seized by gardai. She said his involvement in the theft at Castleblayney in April 2019 was proven by the presence in the stolen trailer at Virginia of parts of the debris from the earlier theft.

She said the prosecution had also established that he was linked to the premises at Tullypole where the money from the ATM thefts was being stored.

She said that although his presence at Castleblayney could not be established, the various strands of circumstantial evidence gave rise to the "inevitable conclusion that the accused was intimately involved in teh workings of the criminal organisation and was involved in a joint enterprise to effect the theft at Castleblayney."

Ms Justice Burns remanded O'Callaghan in custody for a sentencing hearing on March 4.

Others involved with O'Callaghan in the cross-border gang have already entered guilty pleas to various offences.

In December, Gerard Duffy (31) of Greagh, Loughnamore, Co Monaghan, pleaded guilty to the attempted theft of an ATM at the Riverfront Bar & Restaurant, Main Street, Virginia, Co Cavan, on August 14, 2019.

He had been charged with the serious offence of 'the attempted theft of the ATM and its contents for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with, a criminal organisation, contrary to Section 73 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006'.

Brother Ciaran Duffy (28) of the same address, pleaded guilty at the court to three offences connected to the same investigation.

Duffy pleaded guilty to participating in criminal activities while in a Toyota Avensis at Tullypole, Moynalty, Co Meath on August 20, 2019 by participating in the movement of cash on behalf of a criminal organisation.

He pleaded guilty to attempting to commit an offence under the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud) Act by attempting to steal the ATM and its contents at the Riverfront Bar & Restaurant.

Duffy also pleaded guilty to participating in or contributing to the possession of cash at Tullypole, Moynalty, on August 14, 2019, intending to facilitate the commission of an offence by a criminal organisation.

Eldest brother Stephen Duffy (35) of Tullynahinera, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, who was the first to plead guilty, admitted to possessing cash at The Yard, Tullypole, Moynalty, Co Meath, on August 20, 2019, in association with a criminal organisation.

The three brothers will be sentenced on March 4 next.

In November, Niall Finnegan (39) was jailed for four-and-a-half years with the final 18 months suspended for possessing cash, which was the proceeds of the ATM thefts carried out by the gang.

Finnegan of Cherry Grove, Cullyhanna, Co Armagh, pleaded guilty in July at the court to possessing or handling €103,000 at Tullypole in August 2019.

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