A drug dealer who is alleged to have been targeting ‘vulnerable young women’ in the Derry City area has been remanded into custody.
The 34-year-old man has been accused of using the ‘dark web’ to import drugs from England and selling or offering them for the ‘company’ of young women.
The defendant cannot be named as he was granted anonymity by the court due to a perceived threat against his life.
Defence solicitor Paddy MacDermott said that in the area where the defendant resides there have been ‘numerous acts’ against people accused of similar offences in the recent past.
A police officer said there was no specific threat made against the man but conceded that there have been threats made in similar circumstances.
District Judge Barney McElholm agreed to grant the anonymity order and made reference to the various Republican factions with access to guns and explosives.
“There is a real threat to people like this, some of these groups have said they read newspapers to identify people and others would claim they know who they are anyway,” he added.
The defendant is facing a series of drugs charges including possessing Class A drug Cocaine, Class B drug Cannabis and Class C drug Xanax with intent to supply and being concerned in the supply between March 2016 and October 9 this year.
He’s also charged with offences linked to the fraudulent supply of Dreambox and Virgin TV between 2007 and October 9 this year.
A police officer said that on March 1 of this year a search was conducted at the defendant’s flat when it was suspected that he was supplying drugs and chipped boxes capable of accessing satellite TV.
Items were seized including his mobile phone and drug paraphernalia and the defendant was bailed.
On October 10 the defendant was arrested following examination of the phone which uncovered material related to criminal offences, the police officer explained.
According to the PSNI there was evidence to show that the 34-year-old was sourcing drugs from the ‘dark web’ and having them sent to his address and those of ‘vulnerable young women’, one of whom is also a suspect in the case.
He was said to be using Facebook messenger to conduct his business with examples of people enquiring and him offering to supply drugs.
Five hundred Xanax tablets believed to have been sent from England with an estimated street value of £1,000 were intercepted on the way to his home address by a Royal Mail employee.
Search warrants were obtained in relation to several properties where the defendant is known to reside as well as an address belonging to an alleged female accomplice.
Suspected drug packaging was seized along with various other items, including a Tablet which contained an ‘extensive knowledge of the Dark Web, computer programs and technology’.
It showed that he had acquired Bitcoins, a cryptocurrency and digital payment system - the police officer said that one Bitcoin is now worth £3,000.
Further evidence was said to have been uncovered confirming the delivery date of the Xanax tablets destined for his address.
The defendant refused to provide PINs to his Facebook messenger but when police gained access it showed ‘extensive evidence of drugs supply in the Derry area’.
There are messages asking people if they’re ‘looking for any 300’ which police believe to be Pregabalin, others mention ‘best quality’ Xanax, and ‘someone wants fifty, first come first served’.
The police officer said she believes the defendant has been ‘targeting some young vulnerable females’ and ‘offering them drugs for company’ with messages of a ‘sexual’ nature.
These young women were said to have drugs habits which he is ‘feeding’.
He was said to have been ‘regularly supplying’ one of these females following her mother’s death and sent her a message saying ‘love you junior, want to make a stack of money together?’
In another text message he talks to a young female about keeping friendships and business separate and advises her that drugs have to be kept at different locations.
Objecting to bail, the police officer said she has concerns about further offending and interference with an ongoing investigation.
Defence solicitor Paddy MacDermott said his client has ‘no trappings of wealth’ or ‘flashy cars’ and it is a ‘low level’ unsophisticated operation dealing mainly in Class C drugs.
He said that the young women mentioned are all adults and the defendant is a user of drugs who is a victim of drug culture himself and asked for bail to be granted with strict conditions ‘pending his trial’.
Judge McElholm said he has witnessed young people in court ‘out of their minds on Xanax’ and in his view classification means nothing when ‘lives are being ruined by addiction’.
He said that Class C drugs can be as bad as Class A and if prescription drugs are used without strict advice by a doctor that they are ‘poison’, so the fact they are Class C drugs is not a ‘mitigating factor at all’.
Bail was refused and the defendant remanded into custody to appear by way of video link on November 2.
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