Northern Ireland

Guilty pleas over cash and watches haul

Belfast Crown Court
Image caption The five accused appeared at Laganside Courthouse in Belfast over goods found during raids in July and August 2016

Five people including a woman and her son have pleaded guilty to charges relating to the discovery of £500,000 in cash and several luxury watches during raids in County Armagh.

The goods were found during two different police operations in 2016.

In one of the operations in August 2016, more than £400,000 cash in sterling and euros was found inside a lorry stopped outside Armagh city.

One of the accused was seen moving objects from his car to the lorry.

That man, Conor James Patrick Toal, 32, of Mullacreevie Park in Armagh, appeared at Newry Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, on Tuesday.

He pleaded guilty to transferring criminal property, namely £214,216 and 224,760 euros (£194,020) in cash.

Toal, who is unemployed, also pleaded guilty to possession of criminal property - consisting of £4,690 in cash, two Rolex watches and two other watches - and concealing criminal property, namely £79,450 in cash, which was discovered during a search of his home.

Bag contained £10,000

The driver of the lorry, Darren Barry Antony Donnelly, 33, of Roscavey Road, Beragh, County Tyrone, pleaded guilty to possession of criminal property over the cash found in packages in his lorry.

The defence lawyer for Donnelly, who works as a long-distance lorry driver, said he did not know what was inside the sealed bags he was transporting.

The other accused were caught after a police operation in July 2016.

The court heard that officers observed a transaction between Joseph Despard, 30, of Salters Grange Road, Armagh, and Eugene Thomas, 33, of Callan Crescent, Armagh, who was working at a Costcutters store in the city.

Officers saw Thomas get into a car, which was followed by Despard in a red van, with both vehicles making their way to Thomas' home at Callan Crescent.

Thomas was seen coming out of the house carrying a blue plastic bag, which he gave to Despard.

Counterfeit coins

Police followed the van, with the driver initially taking evasive action when asked to stop the vehicle.

A prosecutor said the bag contained several bundles of cash, which totalled £10,010, and "which Mr Thomas took from his address and handed to Mr Despard".

Despard pleaded guilty to possession of criminal property as well as possession of counterfeit currency in the form of 91 fake pound coins that were found during a search of his home.

The court heard that he told police he was contacted a few days before his arrest and was asked to change euros for a man he had never met before.

Thomas pleaded guilty to transferring criminal property to Despard as well as possession of criminal property, namely cash of £103,980 and 72,480 euros (£62,567) and three luxury watches that were discovered during a search of his home.

His mother, Mary Thomas, 57, from the same address in Armagh, pleaded guilty to concealing criminal property, namely two Rolex watches. The court heard she has two cleaning jobs at a school and a hospital.

All five are due to be sentenced on 4 May at Newry Crown Court.

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