Judge Alex Owens said in the High Court last week that Barry Fowler and his partner Lorna Palmer had “been living high on the hog of criminal enterprise”.
As a result of the case taken by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), Palmer lost the battle to keep the house described as “her last refuge”.
The judge ruled that the property in Co Wexford – which is in Palmer’s name – was bought with the proceeds of crime, while Fowler dropped his opposition to have €99,000 in cash seized by CAB.
Fowler is currently serving a six-year sentence for possession of cannabis worth €134,000, while Palmer is in prison for 18 months for money laundering.
Judge Owens said the pair were “awash with cash” and the evidence in court involved “vast sums of money”.
He described Fowler as “a man of means with no means” and that there was “quite the degree of a luxury lifestyle”.
Fowler, who has 20 previous convictions, had been caught with €500,000 worth of cocaine and €294,000 worth of cannabis, along with €118,000 cash in 2012.
He received a seven-year sentence for that offence, but the drug dealing continued at his home while he was behind bars. In May 2021, just months after his release, he was caught with €134,000 of cannabis.
Fowler’s close links to the leader of the Byrne Organised Crime Gang also emerged in court, which heard he had been seen driving a vehicle used by Liam Byrne and which was later seized by CAB in a separate case.
Video from Palmer’s home at Millbrook Lawns, Tallaght, in April 2017 revealed dealing activity with money drop-offs, collections and the weighing of drugs for sale. A search of the house resulted in the seizure of €99,780 in cash for which Lorna Palmer received a prison sentence last May after pleading guilty to money laundering.
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The pair spent €107,527 on the house and grounds at Coolamain, Oylegate, Co Wexford and €234,911 on the house where Palmer lived at Millbrook Lawns.
Chief Superintendent Michael Gubbins detailed in an affidavit how the couple created schemes to launder the cash.
This included obtaining a mortgage for the Wexford property but making payments with cash.
One loan for €50,000 taken out by a family member used in the house purchase was paid back within eight months, even though the person had no means to do so.
Lorna Palmer also made VRT payments worth €79,000 on vehicles imported into Ireland and owned by third parties.
The Wexford house had been bought for €265,000 in 2008 and a mobile home was bought for €17,000, which were “inconsistent with their legitimate earnings”, the court heard.
Two jet-skis were also found at the property and seized by CAB.
Counsel for Palmer said that she had made mortgage repayments on the Wexford property from her modest income as an auxiliary nurse assistant at the Coombe Hospital where she first started working at the age of 18.
Judge Owens ruled that the Wexford property, in which Fowler’s parents live, was bought with the proceeds of crime.
Also included in the ruling were the jet-skis, the mobile home and the €99,000 in cash. Fowler was recently sentenced to six years at Dublin Circuit Court over the cache of cannabis worth €134,000.
Undercover gardai watched as Fowler and a co-accused put something into the boot of a car before moving off in a taxi.
Fowler had only been released the previous November from another sentence for drugs and possession of a gun.
He also served a three-year sentence for dangerous driving causing the death of a teenager in 2005.
In March last year the Sunday Worldphotographed Fowler in a van mocked up to look like a DHL delivery vehicle and dressed in a uniform. The company had not employed him and a spokesperson previously told the Sunday World that anyone with convictions would not pass their strict vetting system.
At Palmer’s money laundering trial in May, it was heard how she told gardai she didn’t know why people were posting money through her door where gardai found two envelopes with €700 and €2,000 in them.
Officers searched the house and found cash in two safes and in envelopes inside a money box amounting to €99,730.
A garda witness agreed Palmer knew the money was the proceeds of criminal conduct but was “turning a blind eye” to what was going on and was not involved in the criminal activity.
Judge Melanie Greally sentenced Palmer to four and half years but suspended the final three years having given credit for a number of “mitigating factors”.
She accepted that Palmer was “under the influence of her long-term partner” at the time and had pleaded guilty to the offence.
She further accepted that Palmer expressed remorse and has engaged well with the Probation Service and is considered to be at a low risk of re-offending.
Testimonials handed in on Palmer’s behalf described her as a compassionate and caring person, particularly in her role as a mother.