CAB paves the way to lay down the law on 'tarmac gang' which has raked in €3.7m
An organised crime gang, believed to have netted more than €3.7m by conning vulnerable victims into allowing its members to carry out repairs at their homes, is being pursued by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB).
The gang operates nationwide and overseas by posing as tradesmen and quoting a "good price" for jobs ranging from laying tarmac to cleaning gutters.
After a three-year investigation into the activities of the gang, the CAB is now taking action in the High Court to confiscate its assets.
It is by far the biggest CAB case in the courts this year and the value of the assets involved exceed those belonging to Liam Byrne, who was the most senior gangland figure targeted by the bureau since the eruption of the Kinahan-Hutch feud that has claimed 18 lives.
Liam Byrne is regarded as the Kinahan cartel's leader in this country.
The tarmac gang is said to have struck in almost every county here and has also been active in the UK and on mainland Europe.
Officers say the criminals have been carrying out the scams for several years and the extent of the profits that they have amassed from pretending to be legitimate builders has soared.
The CAB believes that a large amount of the gang's wealth has been laundered through the purchase of expensive vehicles and high-end jewellery, while huge sums of cash have been frozen in accounts in several financial institutions.
An investigation into the gang, codenamed Operation Tarmac, was launched in 2016 and the initial garda files were then handed over to the CAB for further investigation.
One of the gang's main activities centres on the botched laying of tarmac, which succumbs to weeds within a few weeks, while other, smaller jobs such as cleaning gutters are turned into more expensive work when the "tradesmen" discover a leak in the roof.
Some of its victims have been traced during the investigation to locations in Germany and France, as well as the UK.
The gang is understood to be based around two families, who are connected through marriage.
Gardai have identified six main players in the scam but say they have a network of associates with national and international links.
"Householders in almost every county have been targeted, particularly those deemed to be vulnerable to intimidation or bullying, into handing over whatever sums of cash were being demanded from them," one officer said.
"They move into an area, select their likely targets by door-to-door calling, insist on being paid by cash immediately and then head for the hills."
The preliminary dossier resulted in a series of searches in Co Kerry with the CAB backed up by the armed Regional Support Unit, the Kerry search team and local gardai - involving around 130 personnel.
Officers seized a stolen caravan and nine vehicles, including two BMW X5s, three 5-series BMWs, a Mercedes, an Audi A4 and a high-end VW Passat.
The value of those vehicles, which are all relatively new, has been put at close to €500,000, with some of the models worth more than €90,000.
Officers also seized jewellery worth up to €100,000, including Rolex and Cartier watches.
Some of the items were estimated to be valued at up to €30,000.
Also recovered in the searches was more than €100,000 in cash, as well as £18,000 sterling (€20,000), while a further €200,000 has been frozen in accounts in banks and credit unions.
Gardai said they believed another large amount of money had been withdrawn from one financial institution around the time of the searches.
A total of 11 residences were searched, along with eight offices of professional practices, such as accountants and solicitors.
A large amount of documentation relating to the financial affairs of the suspects was taken away for detailed examination by the CAB, with Revenue officers trying to establish if there were any tax liabilities.
Officials from the Department of Social Protection also looked at records to find out if there were overpayments of social welfare benefits involved.
The CAB case, which is being taken under the Proceeds of Crime Act, is due to come up again in the High Court next month.