In her final article for the 'Sunday Independent', published this week, Veronica Guerin interviewed the wife of Tony Felloni, a jailed Dublin drug baron

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The Independent Online
Tony Felloni, the heroin drug baron sentenced to 20 years imprisonment last Thursday, operated a vice ring in Dublin over 30 years ago. His lengthy criminal record also includes convictions for larceny, armed robberies. assaults and drugs.

Felloni was convicted of procuring young girls for immoral purposes and sentenced to three years imprisonment in 1964. He operated brothels from Dublin's tenements on Gardiner Street in Dublin's north inner city. Girls who had travelled to Dublin looking for work were offered accommodation by Felloni and then forced to become prostitutes to pay for their keep.

It emerged at Felloni's trial that the girls were approached by him or those working with him at the GPO in O'Connell Street. Conned by his charm and beguiling smile, they happily took up his offer of hospitality. Their lives quickly became living nightmares as he viciously beat those who tried to escape his vice dens. His vice activities came to the attention of the gardai, who began an investigation ...

All his life Felloni has been involved in Dublin's underworld. Like many of Dublin's leading criminals, he progressed from petty crime as a juvenile to more serious crime as he got older.

His wife Anne told me this weekend that when she first met him in 1966 she was unaware of his convictions for vice. "I was only out of prison myself. I had done a sentence in England for shoplifting. I remember meeting Tony in O'Connell Street; he was still dressed in a three-piece suit he got leaving prison."

Her recollections of Felloni in their early years together are both happy and sad. "He was vicious with drink and often knocked me about but then he'd be full of remorse."

Felloni's criminal activities were part and parcel of his and Anne's life. It was the culture they grew up in and one to which they were accustomed. Their friends were fellow criminals and they enjoyed the benefits crime brought.

Unlike other courting couples who went to the pictures, Anne and Felloni went shoplifting together. Anne has served many prison sentences for shoplifting and also for assaults.

The heroin business for which Felloni became notorious began in the early Seventies. This arose through his association with the drug-dealing members of the Dunne family. According to his wife, "he saw the money they were making and decided to get into it himself".

His heroin income was small in the Seventies but was supplemented, says Anne, by "burglaries, tie-ups [robberies where the victim is tied up], warehouse, post office and bank jobs". Despite the fact that he made plenty of money from crime he was never generous to Anne or any of their children.

Together Anne and he had seven children. The oldest, Mario Angelo (26) has full blown Aids and is serving a 10-year sentence in Parkhurst Prison in England. He was convicted of an armed robbery carried out to pay for his heroin addiction. His father gave him his first taste of heroin on his 16th birthday.

Anne (25) is also a heroin addict. Her father got her involved in the drugs business while still at school. She is in the second stage of Aids as a result of using dirty needles. Luigi (23) is out on bail, having been charged with possession of six grams of heroin. Lena (22) is also a heroin addict. Regina (21) is currently on remand in Mountjoy charged with possession of five ounces of heroin. Renaldo (17) is in St Patrick's Institution. His mother says he is involved in petty crime. The youngest child is Elivita, a beautiful two-year-old baby. Her mother is adamant that she will not become embroiled in a life of crime.

I find it incomprehensible how Anne remained with her husband as she shows me the physical scars she bears from the beatings he gave her. The assaults resulted in stitches to her skull after being hit by a hatchet, a scar on her eye where she was hit with a bottle, stitches on her ear from his attempt to bite it off and eight-inch long scars on both legs as a result of being thrown through a glass window.

She believes she endured a lot of the pain because she herself was a heroin addict for nearly five years. "In 1984 I was out of my head on heroin, I didn't know if it was day or night, never mind what he was doing to me."

During this period she became pregnant and gave birth to a son she christened Benito. The baby only survived three days as his liver collapsed because of his mother's heroin habit.

"Tony tried to poison me then, I was near-comatose in the hospital and he was spoon-feeding me with gear he had hidden there."

Felloni was responsible for unintentionally poisoning two of his customers. According to Anne he robbed a jar of heroin and a jar of strychnine in a burglary on a chemist's shop in Wicklow.

The jar marked heroin actually contained strychnine and vice versa. He liberally used the strychnine instead of the heroin in his sales packs, causing two young addicts to die ...

Last Thursday the success of Operation Pizza, designed to destroy the Felloni drugs empire, came to a successful conclusion when Felloni was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment.

According to his wife Anne, prison is too good for him. "He's f***ed up every one of his own kids so he doesn't give a shite about anyone."

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