Gym owner jailed for buying credit for phone used by Kinahan cartel to co-ordinate murder

Michael Crotty (42), from Cashel, bought Seán McGovern €20 top-up ahead of Noel Kirwan’s shooting in late 2016

A gym owner has been jailed for two years for helping the Kinahan cartel carry out a serious offence.

Michael Crotty (42), of Slí Aonghusa, Aras na Rí, Cashel, Co Tipperary, admitted buying his friend Seán McGovern €20 of credit for a mobile phone that was used to co-ordinate the murder in December 2016 of an innocent man, Noel Kirwan. He was targeted and shot in Clondalkin, Dublin because the cartel mistakenly believed he was linked to the rival Hutch gang.

At a sentencing hearing in the Special Criminal Court, Ms Justice Caroline Biggs accepted that while Crotty was reckless as to whether the top-up would be used in the commission of a crime, there was no evidence that he knew it would be used in a murder. However, she said the fact it was used in a murder was an aggravating feature.

She set a headline sentence of six years but reduced that to two years after considering mitigating circumstances including Crotty’s guilty plea and lack of previous convictions. She said Crotty had never been on An Garda Síochána’s radar before or since and is a highly regarded employer in his Co Tipperary community where he runs a gym.

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Ms Justice Biggs said 21 people had written “exceptional” references on Crotty’s behalf, which described him as a reliable, trustworthy businessman who had made an “outstanding contribution to the community” and provided employment for numerous people. Others said Crotty helped them through drug and alcohol addiction or traumatic experiences, she said.

The judge noted that Crotty is considered at a low risk of reoffending, is clearly valued in his community and is a source of significant employment.

“Unfortunately that makes him ideal prey for those involved in criminality,” she added.

Crotty is the fourth person to be jailed for offences related to Mr Kirwan’s murder and gardaí are pursuing further lines of inquiry. He had pleaded not guilty to facilitating the murder of Mr Kirwan and went to trial in January. However, in February he entered a guilty plea that he, between October 20th, 2016 and December 22nd, 2016, with knowledge of the existence of a criminal organisation did participate in, or contribute to, activity intending to, or being reckless as to whether such participation or contribution could facilitate the commission of a serious offence by that criminal organisation or any of its members.

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