The convicted extortionist is friends with Gerard McCrory, who was jailed for six years last month for killing Lucy McIlhatton in a drunken 2021 crash in west Belfast. He mounted a pavement and mowed down the popular 24-year-old before fleeing the scene.
McCrory is serving his sentence on the Roe House dissident wing at Maghaberry as a guest of the New IRA — despite never showing an interest in politics.
The move has caused fury in republican circles, with arguments breaking out over the matter between inmates at the unit.
Sources say 45-year-old McCrory managed to get into Roe House due to his friendship with Cricky Notarantonio, who was recently appointed the New IRA’s west Belfast leader.
“It was Cricky who pushed to get McCrory on Roe and Kevin Barry Murphy, who is the wing’s OC (Officer Commanding), agreed,” said an insider.
“You couldn’t make it up. Murphy had Joe Barr, who is a good republican, put off the wing because he renounced violence in court, yet he has allowed a drunken death driver in.”
Notarantonio is a divisive figure, having been jailed in 2013 for trying to extort £12,500 from a prominent Belfast businessman who was running a sideline in dealing drugs.
The 50-year-old — described in court as the leader of an organised crime gang — and co-accused William ‘Shirley’ Barker threatened their victim with the Continuity IRA.
Before taking over as the New IRA’s west Belfast chief, Notarantonio and his killer drunk-driver pal McCrory were linked by sources to a crime gang based in the Whiterock area of Belfast.
In 2019, its members shot up and burned down the family home of a reality TV star over an alleged drug debt.
George and Geraldine Richmond were targeted after their son Tony, who has battled addiction issues, was the victim of an extortion bid. Shots were fired at the home of their daughter and Voice Of Ireland star Georgina.
Terrified father George said at the time: “This harassment has been going on since April 2017. In that time we have lost four cars, burned out in arson attacks. It has ramped up now with repeated attacks on our house.
"Some of those I believe are responsible live close by. That those with connections can stitch people up, blacken their names and attack family homes makes you wonder what has gone so wrong.”
Sources in west Belfast have linked both Notarantonio and McCrory to the gang that targeted the Richmonds.
One said: “The pair of them are just out-and-out criminals. Cricky has a major gambling problem and most of the money he has ends up in the bookies. Since being put in charge of the New IRA in west Belfast, he has recruited all the dregs of society into the ranks.”
Our source added: “Hoods who would have been under threat from other republican groups have joined for protection. Cricky has allowed this because they are feeding money up the chain to him.”