LISLEVANE man Gerard Holland has been given a two-year prison sentence for running what was described as a ‘chop shop’ for stolen cars and tractors, which he sold to unsuspecting customers, some of whom were locals.
In sentencing Gerard Holland of Tir na Nean, Lislevane, the judge described it as ‘criminality at its highest,’ and a ‘nasty piece of work’ done entirely for profit.
The defendant had pleaded guilty to 11 sample counts from a total of 42 on charges that he had, in his possession, stolen engines and car tractor parts worth almost €600,000 near Bandon between September 2010 and October 2016.
In court last week it was heard that the premises in question was used to cut up cars and tractors stolen in border counties by a criminal gang with links to paramilitaries in South Armagh and resold as legitimate vehicles.
Judge Sean Ó Donnabháin said that the level of criminality involved was ‘phenomenal’.
‘This is really a nasty piece of work, to strip down and chop vehicles and put parts in other vehicles so they are virtually untraceable. It is criminality at its highest. He was doing it – not to put a tooth in it – for profit.’
He said that the crimes were not victimless and both insurance companies and individuals had suffered as a consequence of what Holland did.
Pleading for leniency for her client, barrister Siobhan Lankford SC said that her client had co-operated with gardai and entered an early plea, thus saving the State a lengthy and complex trial which would have involved some 95 witnesses, including 25 from outside the State.
The judge said the headline sentence for such an offence was six years, but taking into account the guilty plea, the fact it was the defendant’s first offence and the fact he had some health issues, he suspended four years of the six, leaving him with two years to serve in jail.
Det Garda David Barrett had told Cork Circuit Criminal Court how, as part of an investigation into the theft of high value cars and tractors from properties in the Republic and Northern Ireland, gardai carried out a search of Holland’s property where he operated a business, Gerard Holland Tractors Sales.
They established that Holland, who also had an undertaking business, was operating a chop shop where he was selling engines and other car parts from 27 stolen cars, some 17 of which were stolen in the Republic, and 10 of which were stolen in Northern Ireland, between 2010 and 2016.
The cars, which included 10 BMWs, seven Audis and six Volkwagens, had been stolen mostly when the criminal gang broke into occupied houses under the cover of darkness in both the Republic and Northern Ireland and stole car keys.
He said that gardaí carried out a search of the premises at Lislevane on September 30th 2016 and found a number of engines from stolen cars while a second search on October 20th 2016 yielded a number of car body parts which matched the engines found in the first search.
Det Garda Eugene O’Sullivan of the Garda Stolen Vehicle Investigation Unit said they also found that Holland had cut up and sold engines and other parts from some 10 tractors, six of which had been stolen in Northern Ireland and four of which had been stolen from Co Monaghan over the same period.
He said gardai found the engines had had their serial numbers ground down and erased and they were stamped with new serial numbers and Holland then submitted the new serial numbers to the Revenue Commissioners to get new registration plates and he sold them on as second hand imports from Europe.
Det Garda O’Sullivan said the gang would drive the stolen tractors down from Northern Ireland to West Cork overnight via the old N8, avoiding tolls and arriving early in the morning at Holland’s premises at Lislevane, where he would remove their serial numbers and stamp them with fake serial numbers.
Det Garda Barrett said the combined value of all the stolen vehicles was €579,004.
Det Garda O’Sullivan said that six tractor owners had been compensated virtually in full by Holland, while another two had been partially compensated.
But he added that another two, furthest from West Cork, had received no compensation at all, and were still owed sums of €26,000 and €12,000.
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