Meet the five men charged with being part of crime gang that targets elderly and Asian people
Stolen car rammed Garda vehicle before speeding off and later crashing into roundabout and landing on its roof, court is told
Five men arrested after a crashing a high-powered Audi SQ5 in a supermarket car park have appeared in court charged with being part of an organised criminal gang.
The men, including a father and son, were originally arrested by gardaí last April after the vehicle they were travelling in collided with a roundabout and landed upside down in a car park.
There was tight security at Naas District Court on Thursday where William Connors (47) and his son Larry (19) appeared along with members of the same extended family Larry O’Reilly (20), James Connors (23) and Michael Connors (23).
It was alleged in court that the crash happened when the black Audi was driven at speeds of 200kmh in a bid to escape gardaí, and forced members of the public to take evasive action to avoid head-on collisions.
It was also heard how the men are accused of being part of an organised crime group that targets elderly and Asian people in burglaries in both Ireland and other jurisdictions.
A member of the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Unit, objecting to bail being given to William Connors, outlined details of the allegations against the men.
The charges stem from an incident on 26 April when the Audi, alleged to have been stolen in London the previous month and fitted with stolen plates, rammed a Garda vehicle in Rathmoylan, Co. Meath.
Detective Garda Donal Donoghue said the car was suspected to have been used in 17 burglaries in Northern Ireland, including one in which €250,000 of jewellery was stolen from an antiques dealer.
He said a Garda operation had been set up at national level to target an organised crime gang involved in burglaries.
By mid-March, the gang were suspected of being involved in robberies across Ireland, including in counties Louth, Meath, Kildare, Monaghan and Carlow among others.
On April 26, the vehicle was spotted by officers and, after a Garda car was rammed, a managed containment operation was set up involving several units, including the air support division.
At 8pm, the Audi hit a roundabout near Naas, Co. Kildare, causing the vehicle to crash. The detective told Judge Desmond Zaidan that house-breaking tools were found in the vehicle along with bleach, screwdrivers, burner phones, snoods and a rock.
He said the items found suggested an awareness of Garda forensic techniques and the men also wore a particular brand of gloves.
Objecting to bail, Detective Donoghue said it is alleged William Connors is ‘a vital cog’ in the organised crime gang and would be likely to engage in serious crime if released.
He added no stolen property has been recovered and there are concerns it could be disposed of if Connors is given bail.
The officer also cited the seriousness of new charges against Connors, including endangerment as well as the section 72 charge.
Connors is facing 14 separate criminal charges.
He also said in evidence that the accused man and the criminal gang pose a threat to society and not just in this jurisdiction.
Section 72 is the offence of taking part or helping the activities of a criminal organisation in order to enhance a gang’s ability to commit a serious offence or to facilitate a gang in committing serious offences.
Sergeant Brian Jacob pointed out that bail for a Section 72 charge can only be given at High Court level.
His solicitor Tim Kennelly said that William Connors had not made any admissions and had been on bail from the High Court on other charges relating to the same incident and had not missed any court appearances.
He said his client denies entirely that he is part of criminal gang and “he says there is no gang” and doesn’t accept he “is a Tony Soprano figure”.
In reply to Judge Zaidan, Detective Donoghue said the new charges which were not part of the High Court bail conditions include the section 72 charge as well as three counts of endangerment.
In refusing bail on the new charge, Judge Zaidan said the only similarity between the charges for which he had already got bail was the defendant himself.
The other four men were charged with participating or helping a criminal organising and possession of the stolen Audi.
All four were remanded in custody to Cloverhill District Court on September 28.
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