A former All-Ireland club football champion has pleaded not guilty to possessing more than €400,000 in cash that was stolen from ATMs by a criminal gang in 2019.
Daniel O'Callaghan (31), who played for Crossmaglen Rangers and has an address at Monog Road, Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, has gone on trial at the three-judge, non-jury Special Criminal Court.
He denies all 17 charges against him relating to an ATM theft and an attempted ATM theft which the prosecution says was foiled by gardaí.
Fiona Murphy SC opened the trial for the prosecution on Thursday. She alleged that Mr O'Callaghan was involved with a criminal gang who used a certain "modus operandi" to steal four ATMs by pulling them out of walls in December 2018 and in March and April 2019 in the Meath and Cavan area.
Ms Murphy said Gardaí prevented a further attempt in August 2019 to use a digger to pull an ATM from the Riverfront Bar and Restaurant on Main Street, Virginia, Co Cavan.
She said the prosecution cannot link Mr O'Callaghan to three of the thefts but would bring the court's attention to the similar methods used on each occasion.
Ms Murphy said gardaí investigating the series of ATM thefts were watching in the early hours of August 14th, 2019 when a digger travelled to Virginia in convoy with a stolen Toyota Landcruiser pulling a trailer.
The digger was just metres from the ATM when gardaí intervened. Gardaí, counsel said, identified Mr O'Callaghan coming from the driver's side of the Landcruiser and running into a nearby field. Two other suspects ran to the same field.
Gardaí found one of the men after a short search and arrested him.
The following afternoon, at about 2pm, a garda searching through thick undergrowth behind a shop in Virginia saw a man running through an alley and into the Riverfront Bar. The man was arrested and was found to be in possession of a "burner phone" which had been used two days earlier to contact the owner of the digger, asking to set up a test drive and enquiring how to work the digger.
Meanwhile, the owner of a nearby premises told gardaí an outhouse on his land had been interfered with. When forensic examiners carried out DNA testing of the outhouse, they discovered DNA matching that of Mr O'Callaghan, counsel said.
Ms Murphy said the prosecution's case is that Mr O'Callaghan was involved in "all aspects of the attempted theft at Virginia".
She said there were similarities in the methods used at Virginia and the other thefts and that rubble from an ATM stolen in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan in April 2019 was found in the trailer being pulled by the Landcruiser which the prosecution alleges was driven by Mr O'Callaghan in Virginia.
On the same day as the alleged attempted ATM theft, gardaí executed a search of a premises in Tullypole, Moynalty, Co Meath where they found two plastic bags containing a total of €298,900.
Six days later, gardaí saw a suspected member of the gang return to Tullypole, where he was seen digging up a path. The man was arrested and when gardaí searched the area where they had seen the man digging, they discovered a bag containing €22,000.
On the same date, gardaí found a further €103,930. Counsel said the prosecution will link Mr O'Callaghan to the property at Tullypole and will show that the money found there came from thefts carried out by the accused.
Mr O'Callaghan is charged with the attempted ATM theft at the Riverfront Hotel, Virginia, Co Cavan on August 14th, 2019 for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with, a criminal organisation.
He is further accused of possessing a petrol can, intending to use it or cause or permit another to use it to damage a stolen Toyota Landcruiser with false plates in Virginia, also on August 14th, 2019.
He is further charged with possessing a stolen Toyota Landcruiser, possession of a stolen 14-tonne digger and that he appropriated the digger without the consent of its owner in Virginia on the same date.
He is charged with being in possession of bolt-cutters with the intent of stealing a 14-tonne digger, with the attempted dishonest appropriation of the ATM at the Riverfront in Virginia and with being in possession of a stolen flatbed trailer.
Mr O'Callaghan is also charged with the criminal damage and the theft of an ATM on Main Street, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, on April 3rd, 2019, both offences allegedly being for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a criminal organisation.
Arising out of garda searches at the premises at Tullypole, Moynalty Co Meath on August 14th and 20th, 2019 he is charged with handling or possessing €298,900, €103,930 and €22,000. He is also charged with facilitating the activities of a criminal organisation.
Mr O'Callaghan has denied all charges and his trial continues in front of Ms Justice Tara Burns, presiding, with Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Michael Walsh.