Limerick trader jailed for using grocery store as front for cocaine mix factory

Limerick trader jailed for using grocery store as front for cocaine mix factory

A drug dealer told gardaí “I’m screwed now” when they found him in the kitchen of his small grocery store in Limerick, preparing more than €208,000 worth of cocaine in bowls.

Surrounded by white powder, scales, a blender and mixing bowls, Declan Sheehy, (58), told Gardaí the cocaine was his.

The father-of-four also admitted possessing €58,000 in cash, found by gardaí on a sofa in the shop and in his home, of which €51,000 was considered by the court to be the proceeds of crime.

Sheehy, of Janemount Park, Corbally, Limerick, who used his family’s fourth-generation grocery store as a cocaine mixing factory, was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison with the final 18 months suspended.

“It is astonishing that a small business in Limerick city, run by the defendant’s family for four generations, ended up being a front for the distribution, sale and supply of cocaine,” sentencing judge Tom O’Donnell said.

“This was in a drug-ridden area and here is someone who could be considered an upstanding member of society openly running a nefarious business,” the judge said.

“Cocaine is one of the worst scourges in this city and there are consequences when people become addicted to it, the harm it causes,” Judge O’Donnell said. The judge said Sheehy had admitted owning the drugs “and that makes him the main (player) in this.”

I have no doubt that he knows the harm it (cocaine) causes and has contributed to it.

Judge O’Donnell said Sheehy “was found evidently compromised and surrounded by drugs and drug paraphernalia”.

Acting on a tip-off, members of the Limerick Garda Divisional Drugs Unit raided Sheehy’s shop in St Mary’s Park and found him alone in the kitchen mixing cocaine on 21 November 2022.

Detective Garda Adrian Cahill, of the Garda drugs unit, told the court: “Gardai found a brick of cocaine in a container in the kitchen. “There was a silver container containing white powder, the white powder was being separated, there were mixing agents in a blender, a scale and a knife with white powder.”

When asked by prosecutor Lily Buckley BL if Sheehy “was literally caught in the act”, the garda replied: “Yes.”

When gardaí asked Sheehy who owned the drugs, he replied: “It’s mine, I’m screwed now, it’s cocaine.” Gardaí recovered a total of €58,000 in cash at the shop and Sheehy’s home, although €7,000 of profits were accounted for.

Sheehy told gardaí that he inherited the shop from his mother, who had inherited it from his mother, and had been running it for the past 20 years. Sheehy told gardaí that the workshop paid him an annual salary of around €30,000.

Garda Cahill told the court: “I believe he (Sheehy) ran his own wholesale distribution business from his back kitchen and profited from it.” Garda Cahill said Sheehy showed signs of wealth and that there was no mortgage on her house or his shop, and that he was the absolute owner of both properties.

Previous convictions

The court heard Sheehy had a number of previous convictions, including the last in June 2004, after he pleaded guilty to a charge of violent disorder and received three years’ jail for his part in a “pitched battle” between rivals facing off outside A fast. Food restaurant in 2003.

During the much-publicised melee at the time, a variety of weapons, including a golf club, a steering lock and a pool cue, were used outside the former Supermacs store on Ennis Road in Limerick.

Sheehy also had convictions for public order issues, as well as a landmark conviction in 1985, when he was 18, for aggravated robbery for which he was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Represented by senior solicitor Michael Bowman and junior solicitor Pat Barriscale, Sheehy co-operated with gardaí, facilitated a search of his shop and home and admitted all the offences, it was heard.

Sheehy pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of cocaine for sale or supply, two counts of possession of cash suspected to be the proceeds of crime and possession of items said to be drug paraphernalia.

In addition to receiving six years in prison for one of the cocaine charges, Sheehy received two concurrent five-year sentences, regarding one of the proceeds of crime charges and the drug paraphernalia charge. The other charges were taken into consideration.

When Sheehy was initially charged in court in November 2022, gardaí gave evidence that he was then “heavily involved in the sale and supply of drugs in Limerick”.