Hutch associate paid €200 to deliver deadly weapons and ammo
These are the deadly assault rifles that gardai believe were going to be used by the Hutch mob in the ongoing gangland feud.
Former childcare worker Joseph Jones (31) claimed he was paid a mere €200 to transport the high-powered automatic weapons along with more than 700 rounds of amm- unition.
The Hutch associate was jailed yesterday for three years after admitting being in possession of the deadly firearms.
He was arrested after his car was stopped by detectives and members of the Emergency Response Unit in Meath on March 24, 2016.
The operation was carried out as part of an investigation into the organised crime gangs involved in the ongoing feud.
A source described the seizure as a "highly significant" strike against the Hutch gang.
"This was a massive part of their firepower, and it was one of the most crucial seizures for preventing further deaths," the source said.
Jones was not on the garda radar before his arrest but was closely linked to members of the Hutch gang.
Yesterday, Trim Circuit Court heard that gardai had placed Jones' property in Rath Lodge, Ashbourne, under surveillance and observed him leaving the premises carrying a blue holdall bag at around 4.30pm on the day in question.
Det Sgt Paul Kane, of the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, said that a decision was made a short time later to search Jones and the vehicle.
During the course of the search, gardai recovered two Kalashnikov assault rifles and 744 rounds of 9mm calibre ammunition.
Det Sgt Kane said the firearms were AK-74 models but that the ammunition "was for a different calibre weapon" and "wouldn't have worked in the assault rifles".
The court heard that Jones was arrested and taken to Ashbourne Garda Station, and that while being transferred he confirmed he was aware that there were firearms in the bag.
"In fact, during the course of the interview he indicated that he had thrown a scarf into the bag to cover its contents," the prosecution counsel stated.
Det Sgt Kane gave evidence that Jones would not identify a third party who approached him to transfer the firearms and ammunition as he was "conscious of his own personal safety" and that of his family.
Jones lost his employment as a result of the incident, and was described in court as being under financial pressure at the time of his arrest.
The court also heard that he has 10 previous convictions for public order and criminal damage, and that six of these were the result of a single incident while the most recent offence was committed more than 10 years ago.
The presiding judge said he was taking into account the fact that Jones had a young child, his guilty plea and that he had a "difficult childhood".
He also said he was treating Jones as a man with no previous convictions as these were from more than a decade ago.
However, the aggravating factors included the powerful weapons involved, that he was involved in transporting them and the serious nature of the charge.
Jones was sentenced to four years in prison, with the final 12 months suspended, and the prison term would be effective from the sentencing date.
The length of the sentence was greeted with frustration in garda circles due to the lethal weapons involved and the belief that they were to be used in the ongoing feud, which has so far claimed 15 lives.