Published on May 31st, 2010 | by Eamon Dillon0
After a booming decade in the sex-trade, one of Ireland’s most successful pimps has been jailed
THE sleazy truth of Ireland’s Mr Sex was revealed in court as the self-confessed brothel boss tried to prove his wife’s innocence.
The low-profile dad, Tony Linnane, was fingered as Ireland’s top sex-tycoon with a chain of adult stores as well as his sleazy vice business.
His bid to protect his wife Caroline O’Leary spectacularly backfired after a jury found her guilty and she was remanded in custody.
The 53-year-old vice merchant was the target of a massive garda investigation in 2006 and 2007 which forced him to hand over €1.2 million to the Criminal Assets Bureau.
For years Linnane has run his business while managing to keep under the radar and went to great lengths to disguise his identity.
This week the former chimney sweep cut a bizarre sight as he entered court with a scarf across his face.
He jostled a photographer and glared at a TV camera as he went into the building with his heavily disguised wife.
Linnane wasn’t so concerned about the privacy of his brothels’ punters where he installed hidden cameras with live feeds to his house at Scartbarry outside Cork.
The couple have two young children together and enjoy regular trips to Spain and the United States.
Linnane admitted at Cork Circuit Court this week along with his right hand woman Julie Anne Gibson to being a brothel keeper
Caroline (39) denied the 69 charges of managing or assisting to manage brothels in Cork.
Charges against another man Bobby Healy were dropped on the opening day of the trial.
Despite Linnane’s claim that his knew nothing about the sordid source of his wealth the jury of 12 men found her guilty on seven counts.
“She wasn’t involved in any way. It’s blatantly obvious. There was massive amounts of texts between me and Julie, we ran it between ourselves,” he said in court.
“No more than we never discussed the adults stores. There was no need to discuss it. It was business. I went to work and came home,” he said.
Linnane was said to be furious after his wife was taken into custody and taken to Limerick jail, while he remained free on bail ahead of sentencing on 12 May.
On that day Linnane was given a 15 month sentence while his wife’s custodial sentence was suspended. Julieanne Gibson, described in court as hired help also got a suspended sentence.
A crucial piece of evidence was a note book found in O’Leary’s handbag in which she had written the names and descriptions of hookers.
Linnane, however, had claimed that his wife had written them down as he took a phone call from Gibson while driving.
Julie Gibson had given him the details to update their brothel adverts on the internet.
“I just asked her to do it, I was driving and I couldn’t,” said Linnane in court.
He also said he told his wife that the descriptions of the women were new workers for his pal’s lap-dancing club.
The names, however, corresponded with the names found written on envelopes containing cash in a safe in the Jade Winter’s sex-shop.
Gardai carried out a series of raids on the brothels at Grafton Street and Lower John St in Cork on November 20th, 2006 as part of Operation Boulder.
They found cameras hidden in electrical sockets which were used to film the men who paid for sex at the dingy brothels, the court was told.
Computers seized at their Scartbarry home were found to have live feeds connected to the hidden cameras in the city-centre brothels.
A series of statements from punters and five prostitutes who worked for Linnane were read out on the first day of the trial.
They revealed how tight-fisted Linnane told his management team to fine the prostitutes for using more than one baby wipe, for speaking clearly to punters when explaining prices and for failing to turn the cameras back on.
The camera could be turned on and off from the Jade Winters sex shop below the Grafton Street brothel.
One prostitute from Brazil gave the price list for sexual services: “€100 for massage and hand-relief, €130 for blow job, €150 for full sex, €150 for half an hour, €200 for an hour, €250 for domination.”
A male customer said in a statement that the room he went to at John Street had a type of bed or table one would see in a gym and oral sex was performed on him for €130 and that he wore a condom.
Another man had full sex for €200 with a prostitute who came from Grafton Street to a hotel he was staying in.
He had been to the Grafton Street premises before but found it “dirty and scruffy.”
Another man paid €600 for a prostitute to be chauffeur-driven to his home in west Cork.
Even the prostitutes complained about the dingy brothel where they worked. “It is very horrible, when it rains, rain comes in the window,” said one.
During opening statements senior counsel Marjorie Farrell said that documentation seized showed that half of the money made by the prostitutes went to the man described as “boss”.
The earnings from both brothels were placed in envelopes and dropped into the Jade Winters sex shop. There were also lists of the roster worked by the prostitutes with their names and prices lists for services available.
The women began work at 10am continuing until 10pm, with longer hours at weekends.
The case also revealed how off-shore companies were set up into which the proceeds were channelled while adult stores were run by a UK-registered company called Anapax.
Linnane admitted in court that the use of a shell company to buy the property at Grafton Street in 1995 was to disguise the real owner.
The Criminal Assets Bureau carried out a detailed and forensic examination of the computers and mobile phones seized during the garda raids.
Officer A told how Linnane’s adviser Michael Grimes set up firms and offshore companies.
One of these, based in the British Virgin Islands, was used to buy properties in the United States.
Defending counsel Tom Creed said that the CAB “did a fine job” as a result of which Linnane “has paid significant sums of money to them.”