A young Letterkenny man who pleaded guilty to three counts of money laundering after he ran up a drugs debt has avoided jail after he completely turned his life around.
Eoin McBrearty appeared at Letterkenny Circuit Court where he also faced another charge of laundering money which was the proceeds of criminal activity.
The 24-year-old was charged with being engaged in converting, transferring, handling, acquiring, possessing or using the proceeds of criminal conduct, laundering €10,000, or thereabouts, credited to a Bank of Ireland account, while knowing that or being reckless as to whether or not the property was the proceeds of criminal conduct.
He was also charged with similar offences of €500 being credited to An Post and a further €429.50 credited to an AIB bank account.
McBrearty, from Gleann Eadan in Letterkenny, was also charged with laundering money which were from the proceeds of the sale of illegal drugs.
He admitted dealing in drugs after Gardai found more than €8,000 in a bank account belonging to the accused.
McBrearty’s scam was first noticed by Bank of Ireland fraud investigators when they noticed unusual activity on his account in March, 2019.
It followed a sum a €10,000 coming into his account in November, 2018 but when the bank tried to recover the funds they were quickly transferred out to another account.
In November, 2020, documents including bank statements and McBrearty’s passport were handed over to Gardai.
When interviewed at Letterkenny Garda Station following his arrest in May, 2021, McBrearty told investigators that he was ‘young and dumb’.
McBrearty said he handed over his account information to an unidentified male and had no idea when money was coming in or going out.
McBrearty told Gardai that he owed money to someone for drugs and said he took what he could to pay off his debt.
McBrearty was working in retail at the time. When quizzed about the amount of money, €8,924.71, in his account, which was out of proportion with his income and expenditure, he said the funds were the proceeds of drug dealing.
He said he ran up a debt of around €600 and withdrew money after handing over his card as he didn’t believe he owed as much as he was told.
Barrister for McBrearty, Ms Fiona Crawford, said her client’s account was overdrawn at the time and effectively her client gained €270.
“He was co-operative and forthcoming when interviewed,” Ms Crawford said. “He put his hands up and he was full and frank with Gardai.”
Ms Crawford said McBrearty, who has no previous convictions, was deemed as being of a low-risk of reoffending.
“He was funding a party lifestyle and his drug use escalated,” Ms Crawford said. “He outlined that he did have a drug addiction. He accrued a drug debt.
“He realised that made the matter worse because of how he dealt with the drug issue. He acknowledges the seriousness of the behaviour and has said that he was very naïve.”
Ms Crawford said McBrearty has since ‘disassociated himself with negative peers’, he now has a partner and is in employment.
Passing sentence, Judge John Aylmer said he placed the three charges of money laundering at the lower end of the scale and which merited a sentence of 18 months in prison before mitigation.
However, he placed he charge of laundering money which was the proceeds of criminal activity as a more serious offence and one which merited a sentence of two years before mitigation.
In mitigation, Judge Aylmer said McBrearty had entered a plea of guilty, had no previous convictions and was assessed as being a low risk of reoffending by the Probation and Welfare Services.
He added that McBrearty had completely turned his life around and said he was a student of 18 or 19 years when these incidents occurred.
He had since managed to wean himself off drugs and has held down a number of jobs since and is now in full-time employment.
Judge Aylmer said this was a case in which the court might consider reducing the sentences to one of 12 months and 16 months.
However, having regard to all the positive steps taken by McBrearty to turn his life around, the Judge said this was a case more appropriately dealt with by way of community service.
He ordered McBrearty to carry out 240 hours of community service in lieu of 16 months in prison and took the other charges into consideration.