A Limerick man who used an ice cream van as a cover to sell cocaine has been sentenced to four years in jail with the final two years suspended.

Paul Collopy, 41, of Glenbrook, Bloodmill Road, Ballysimon, Limerick, pleaded guilty at Limerick Circuit Court to possessing cocaine for sale or supply.

Police arrested Collopy, a father of three, outside his home on November 25, 2014. At the time, he was attempting to conceal a lunchbox containing cocaine between the engine and hood of his van.

Over €6,000 (approx. $6,600) of cocaine was found in the van, as well as two “tick lists” with the names of customers “who owed money for drugs.”

Gardaí also recovered €5,000 (approx. $5,500) in cash in the house, and an invoice, discovered in the vehicle, which showed €45,000 (approx. $49,500) of cocaine had been sold.

Detective Garda David McGrath, of the Limerick Garda Divisional Drugs Unit, said the man was selling ice cream from a fleet of vans in public parks and sporting venues around the city.

“He was effectively caught red-handed,” he said.

Collopy, who has 70 previous convictions, was jailed for five years in December 2007 for selling €17,000 (approx. $18,700) of cocaine. The Journal.ie reports that three years after his release in 2011, he was caught by police in Ennis with €28,000 (approx. $30,800) of heroin for which he received a four-year sentence, after the final two years of a six-year term was imposed.

Detective Garda McGrath called Collopy a “chronic cocaine and crack cocaine addict.”

“My own opinion and the opinion of the divisional drugs squad would be that he is a drugs wholesaler rather than a street dealer.

“He would be giving the drugs to others to break down for street dealing,” he said.

The court heard that Collopy was “selling drugs to break even,” and that “he had a €200 a day drug habit.”

State prosecutor John O’Sullivan said the man came from “a good family with no criminal connections.”

O’Sullivan said: “He started sniffing glue aged ten. He started using other drugs in his teens.”

“He was working from the age of twelve drawing coal on a horse and cart, and later in his own pick-up truck.”

The court was told that Collopy was now drug-free, and had achieved music and cookery certificates while in prison on remand awaiting sentence.

The sentence is to run consecutively to the four-year sentence imposed at Ennis Circuit Court in June of last year.

People buying ice cream from a van.iStock