organised crime | 

Two men jailed for seven and four years for roles in large-scale money laundering operation

Lawlor (56) and Hanway (32) were paid wages of up to €5,000 a month for laundering cash for €12m crime gang

Ross Hanway

L-R: Patrick and Ian Lawlor, pictured at the Criminal Courts of Justice© Paddy Cummins -

Jessica Magee, Fiona Ferguson and Eimear DoddSunday World

Two men who received monthly wages for their roles in a money laundering operation for a criminal gang which had an income of almost €12 million during 2019 have been handed lengthy prison sentences.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that just under €900,000 was seized by gardaí following a surveillance operation at the home of Patrick Lawlor (56).

Lawlor (56) and Ross Hanway (32) were on Wednesday handed prison sentences of seven years and four years respectively for their roles working for an organised crime gang.

The court heard the men were only involved in money laundering and not in drugs. Lawlor received monthly cash payments of €5,000 while Hanway was initially paid €1,250, which rose to €4,000 by 2019.

When gardaí searched the Lawlor family home, a small amount of drugs and cash was found in the bedroom of Lawlor's son, Ian Lawlor (24). Gardai believe this was a “sole enterprise” unconnected to his father's offences and separate to the garda investigation.

Hanway of The Beeches, Archerstown Demense, Ashbourne, Co Meath, pleaded guilty to possessing €412,000 on May 26, 2020, which was the proceeds of crime.

Patrick Lawlor of Collins Avenue West, Whitehall, Dublin 9 pleaded guilty to possessing €412,000 on May 26, 2020 which was the proceeds of crime.

He also pleaded guilty to possession of €477,370 in cash, £6,920 Sterling, 1,940 Romanian Lei (approximately €400), 187 Ukrainian Hryvnia Lei (approximately €5) and $3,295 US Dollars.

Lawlor Sr further pleaded guilty to possession of an encrypted mobile phone.

Ian Lawlor also of Collins Avenue West pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine, ketamine, MDMA valued at €18,000 and €12,000 in cash on the same date.

L-R: Patrick and Ian Lawlor, pictured at the Criminal Courts of Justice© Paddy Cummins -

The three men have no previous convictions and have not come to garda attention since this offending.

Judge Melanie Greally said “it does not take any leap of imagination to infer” that money seized by gardaí had originated from serious criminal activity.

Judge Greally noted that all three defendants had entered early guilty pleas, co-operated with gardaí, and had no previous convictions.

She said both Hanway and Lawlor Sr received financial rewards for their roles in the money laundering operation. She said Hanway was transporting €412,000 in cash to a truck driver, who would then have taken this money outside the jurisdiction.

Judge Greally said it was an aggravating factor that Hanway was a taxi driver at the time, and had acted as a courier for the criminal group on a number of occasions.

Judge Greally said Hanway would have enjoyed the trust of those higher up the organisation and set a headline sentence of 110 months.

After considering the mitigating factors, she imposed a custodial sentence of four years, with the final two years suspended on strict conditions.

Judge Greally said Lawlor Snr played a “central role” which would have been of “critical importance” to the criminal organisation over a period of several years.

She said Lawlor Sr had received substantial amounts of money for his role, and had accumulated money, which was part of the cash seized by gardaí during the search.

Judge Greally acknowledged that Lawlor Sr had a modest family home, but he also had a significant amount of cash in a frozen bank account and a luxury vehicle.

She set a headline sentence of 12 years for each count of money laundering and four years for the count of possession of an encrypted phone.

Having considered the mitigating factors, Judge Greally imposed a sentence of eight years with the final 12 months suspended on strict conditions.

Judge Greally said Ian Lawlor 's offending was detected during the course of a search of the family home. Lawlor Jr told gardaí he was holding the drugs to reduce a drugs debt and was involved in small scale drugs dealing.

She said Lawlor Jr was a young man from a respectable background, who suffered with mental health difficulties. Lawlor Jr had also taken steps to address his addiction and had strong family support.

Judge Greally set a headline sentence of 54 months. She said the nature of the offending necessitated the imposition of a custodial sentence, though she would give “significant credit” for the mitigating factors and positive steps taken by Lawlor Jr.

She handed Lawlor Jr a three year prison sentence with the final 12 months suspended on strict conditions.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court was previously told by Detective Garda Ronan Doolan that ledgers seized by investigating gardaí showed Hanway and Patrick Lawlor were both working for an organised crime gang which had an income of over €12 million during 2019.

The gang, which has operations within and outside the State, spent over €98,000 on encrypted mobile phone devices during the same year, the court heard.

Dt Doolan told Kieran Kelly BL, prosecuting, that members of the Garda National Drugs and Organised Bureau mounted a surveillance operation of Lawlor's family home following a confidential tip-off.

On the day in question, gardaí saw Lawlor Sr leave his Dublin home carrying a heavy rucksack on his back. He then got into a taxi which pulled up beside him, without being flagged and driven by Hanway.

Gardaí stopped the taxi, arrested both men and seized the rucksack, containing €412,000 in cash. Both Hanway and Lawlor had Android mobile phones and also dual-partition encrypted phones.

Det Doolan said that these encrypted phones are used by criminal gangs to communicate with each other.

He said such phones have a “dummy screen” which looks like an ordinary phone, until the user opens a certain app, for example the calculator, then a different screen loads once a code is entered.

When Lawlor was searched, the encryption app on the phone was open, allowing gardaí to take screenshots of messages sent and received over the previous week including some between Hanway and Lawlor.

Det Doolan said that on encrypted phones, the messages burn off every seven days, so that even as they were taking screenshots, messages from the previous week were being wiped.

Gardaí searched Lawlor's house on foot of a warrant and found a further sum of over €470,000 in cash, including sterling and some Romanian currency.

The court was told that both Hanway and Lawlor Sr were only involved in the laundering of money, not with drugs.

The court heard that in the course of their investigation, gardaí found ledgers which gave a window into the wage structure and scale of operation within the crime gang.

Hanway, whose name was entered in the ledgers under a pseudonym, was being paid around €1,250 monthly at first, rising to an average of €4,000 by 2019. Lawlor Sr was being paid an average of €5,000 monthly.

During the search of the Lawlor home, gardaí found drugs valued at €18,045 and cash in Ian Lawlor’s bedroom. Gardai believe this was a “sole enterprise” on Ian Lawlor’s part and unconnected with what was going on in the house.

When interviewed Lawlor Sr told gardaí that he had fears for his and his family’s safety and had been under pressure. He said he was shocked and surprised to learn of the drugs in his son’s room.

Gardai agreed with Patrick Lawlor’s defence counsel Oisin Clarke BL that Lawlor accepted his own role and told gardaí his family had nothing to do with the offences. They accepted he was put under pressure to become involved and that he expressed relief during interview that it was over.

Counsel said his client had found himself in extreme financial difficulty and facing the risk of losing the family home.

Judge Greally noted that Lawlor Sr was receiving monthly cash payments of €5,000 for his role.

Mr Clarke said the considerable amount of cash seized by gardaí from the shed at Lawlor's home included some cash which his client had put aside.

Lawlor did not want to accept the cash, but his debts did not reduce as the criminal gang found it useful to keep him in his role.

Mr Clarke said his client was a family man who started working at an early age. He worked in construction as a sole trader and was doing “extremely well” during the 1990s and early 2000s.

The financial crash of 2008 was a “devastating blow” to Lawlor, as he became unemployed and depleted the family's savings due to financial pressures.

While Lawlor returned to work, he found himself in debt to certain individuals and became involved in a criminal enterprise.

Mr Clarke said his client has an “overzealous drive to provide and protect family” and had built a rental property, which would provide an income to his wife in the coming years. A number of references from friends and family were handed into the court on Lawlor's behalf.

Mr Clarke said his client did not display any visible trappings of wealth and designer watches found at the property were fake.

Dt Doolan said bank accounts, containing around €100,00 belonging to Lawlor Snr and his wife, had been frozen and Lawlor Sr also had a 191 Mercedes E-class vehicle.

Dominic McGinn SC, for Ian Lawlor, said his client is an apprentice electrician, whose training was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He acknowledged that while the Probation Service consider Lawlor Jnr to be at moderate risk of re-offending, his client is now drug-free and has become involved in charitable works.

A number of testimonials were handed to the court on behalf of Lawlor Jnr. Mr McGinn also noted that the likely imprisonment of Lawlor Sr would have a devastating impact on the family and asked the court to consider a non-custodial sentence for Ian Lawlor.

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