A 34 year old Irish Bitcoin trader and his accomplish have been sentenced today 21st December at a Dublin court for running an online drug dealing operation on the Dark Web after they were placed under surveillance when Gardaí received confidential information about a computer IP address.
This lead the operation to follow the suspects’ car which tracked him to a business address and to the obtaining of a search warrant where Gardaí found both Mannion and O’ Connor on the premises along with a holdall containing the drugs, a vacuum packing machine, weighing scales, envelopes and labels for posting.
Neil Mannion of Mount Drummond Avenue, Harold’s Cross, Dublin and Richard O’Connor of Clonskeagh Road, Clonskeagh, Dublin had both pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of LSD, amphetamine and cannabis resin worth €143,000 with intent to sell or supply at Bank House Business Centre, South Circular Road on November 5th 2014.
According to the Irish Independent, Judge Martin Nolan imposed a six and a half year term on Mannion who he called “the brains of the operation”. He said, unlike most people before the court who were drug carriers or mules, Mannion owned and sold the drugs and sourced the customers.
He imposed a three year sentence on O’Connor who he said was acting under Mannion’s instructions in return for a weekly wage. Judge Nolan said it was an unusual case because the drugs were sold online using the “deep net” to countries around the world.
“It may seem that committing crimes on the internet is somewhat easier than selling drugs on the street,” he said. “It gives the impression of invulnerability and the impression that the crime is less serious but it’s not. These two sold drugs to third parties for profit.”
The Bitcoin trader had quit a €36,000 a year job with Eircom in 2013 and set up the online drugs business, an e-cigarette business and an auction website, while his accomplish a self-employed film technician with a grip on the film industry is described as only playing a “secondary part” in the operation only taking part in the packaging and posting of the drugs.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard Mr O’Connor received up to €600 a week for his part in the packaging and posting of the drugs.
Mannion had explained to Gardaí over his eleven interviews that his business operation was “just a market place like any other market place, like eBay”. He took full responsibility for the drugs seized and described how he would post the drugs to countries such as the United States, Japan and the Czech Republic in exchange for the digital currency Bitcoin using marketplaces Silk Road and Agora.
Detective Sergeant Roberts agreed with Michael O’Higgins SC who was defending Mannion that anyone who was a “little tech savvy” would not find it difficult to access the dark web. Det Sgt Roberts also claimed Mannion “is not the normal type of criminal we deal with”.
Counsel claimed his client had been using alcohol and cocaine at the time had not made any significant money from dealing drugs or had led an extravagant lifestyle and described him as a “not a very mature person”.
Mr Guerin representing O’Connor also claimed he was abusing drugs at the time of the incident and had developed a dependency but was clean now and as well as caring for both his parents had a very bright future in the film industry.
Neither man had any previous convictions.