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File image: Keith Quinn pictured in 2014 Ryan Byrne/INPHO
keith quinn

Former League of Ireland footballer who was caught moving €2.7 million in heroin is jailed

The court heard that Quinn had “a very significant gambling problem”.

A FORMER PROFESSIONAL footballer who was caught moving over €2.7 million of heroin has been jailed for four years.

Keith Quinn (32) received a package containing the heroin at his place of work in an industrial estate in west Dublin. Soon afterwards he met with another man and then delivered the package to a nearby address.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that Quinn, who was previously a professional footballer with Sheffield United and several League of Ireland clubs, had “a very significant gambling problem” and that there was “a hold over him” due to debts he had accrued.

Quinn of Monastery Gate Avenue, Clondalkin, Dublin pleaded guilty to possession of heroin for sale or supply at Rosemount Business Park, Dublin 11, on 5 August 2020.

He has four previous convictions for minor road traffic offences.

Alan Quinn (41), the accused’s older brother and a former footballer for the Irish national team, gave evidence before the court that his brother had a good upbringing and none of the family has any convictions.

Quinn said he did not condone what his brother did, but he does not think his brother “is a bad lad”. He said his brother is not a drug dealer and he deserves a second chance.

Passing sentence today, Judge Pauline Codd sentenced Quinn to seven-and-a-half years imprisonment.

Judge Codd suspended the final three-and-a-half years of the sentence on strict conditions including that he undergo residential treatment for gambling addiction, if deemed appropriate by the Probation Service.

‘Do nothing until I get there’

Detective Garda Liam Aherne told John Berry BL, prosecuting, that in August 2020, police authorities in the UK became suspicious of a package travelling through the UK which had been sent from the Netherlands and had a final destination in Ireland.

Garda Aherne said UK police opened the package and determined that it contained heroin before contacting gardaí. An operation was put in place to continue the delivery and on the date in question, a detective dressed in a UPS uniform delivered the package to the accused’s work address in the Dublin industrial estate.

The package, which was had the name “Keith” on the address label, was given to Quinn who sent a photo of it to his co-accused. He received a text back saying “Do nothing until I get there”.

Quinn put the package in his car and drove alongside the co-accused in a separate car to another part of the industrial estate. Quinn entered a premises on his own and then came out without the package.

He and his co-accused were arrested shortly thereafter and the package was recovered. The total value of the heroin was €2,769,130.

In an interview with gardaí, Quinn claimed that he knew “nothing suspicious” about the package and that he thought it might contain medicine for his daughter. He told gardaí that he had a gambling problem and had split up with the mother of his child because of this.

Quinn told gardaí that sending the photo of the package to his co-accused was something he would do on a routine basis. Berry told the court that it was the prosecution’s case that there was “a pattern of communication” between the two.

Detective Aherne agreed with Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, that his client had 14 siblings and that he is the youngest member of the family. His siblings include former Ireland international footballers Alan Quinn and Stephen Quinn (35).

The detective agreed with counsel that his client was signed to the Sheffield United academy and was given a professional contract at the age of 18, but he returned to Ireland following the death of his mother.

Aherne agreed that Quinn is “deeply ashamed” of his actions and that his involvement was out of “stupidity” rather than “inherent badness”.

The detective agreed with counsel that his client displayed a “very marked reluctance” to discuss the people who got him involved in the offence and that he was in fear. He agreed that Quinn appears to have a significant problem with gambling.

‘very bad judgement’

O’Higgins said the drugs are not his client’s and that he was a “conduit”. He said his client’s employment in a logistics organisation was “very appropriate” to allow him to be “targeted” by others.

Counsel said his client has “a very significant gambling problem”, that there was “a hold over him” due to debts he had accrued and that there was no material gain. He said his client was guilty not just of the crime, but also of “very bad judgement”.

Passing sentence, Judge Codd said it was “quite clear the accused was a cog in the distribution of the drugs”. She said that while he was not benefiting financially, he breached the trust of his employer by using his place of work.

She said that while Quinn did not know what was in the package, “clearly the circumstances were enough to give rise to suspicions”.

She said his involvement was in the lower level and appears to have been due to his being in the throes of a gambling addiction.

Judge Codd set a headline sentence of twelve-and-a-half years. She said she would have set it higher if he had not been under duress and was personally profiting from the offence.

She said she took into account by way of mitigation his guilty plea, his expression of remorse and shame, his personal circumstances, his lack of previous convictions for offences of this nature, his good work history and his pro-social family.

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